Beale illness another setback for Waratahs ahead of crunch Super Rugby clash

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs could have just one full day to train with their first-choice team ahead of a vital clash against the Rebels with Kurtley Beale battling tonsillitis in an already disrupted week.

Beale was absent on Tuesday with tonsillitis, after missing training on Monday and though the Waratahs are confident the utility will play, it is not ideal preparation for NSW.

The players have the day off on Wednesday and will name their team on Thursday for Saturday's clash, with only one full day of training with their new combinations before Saturday;

Beale shapes as the most likely fullback replacement for Israel Folau, who has been issued a Code of Conduct breach notice by Rugby Australia and stood down by NSW Rugby until further notice.

If Beale doesn't shake off the illness, Alex Newsome could be the next option to start at 15, with Karmichael Hunt and Adam Ashley-Cooper in the centres.

His absence is far from ideal for the Waratahs who are already working hard to shut out the "distraction" of the Folau controversy.

Folau was issued a Code of Conduct breach notice on Monday afternoon and has until Wednesday at 2pm to either accept the sanction and be sacked without compensation or push for a hearing.

Halfback Nick Phipps admitted the events of the past week were hard for the group to avoid.

"It's obviously a distraction," he said.

"It's been going on for near two weeks now and the fact it was such a big press conference yesterday about it, It's not too far from all the boys' vision every day.

"To be honest, though, professional footy players, we're all quite lucky that the decision's been made.

"There's a due course that's going on now and we know he won't be ready for this weekend so we've got to focus on getting ourselves right.

Folau became Super Rugby's all-time leading tryscorer in the Waratahs' last outing and is considered one of the best players in the world but Phipps was confident they could cover his absence.

"We've got some hungry young boys in the backline ready to take their opportunities there," he said.

"We've got KB (Beale), who was nominated world player of the year when he was playing fullback for the Wallabies.

"We've obviously got a lot of talent and a lot of hunger to fill that role but in the scheme of things, you know what kind of player he is, he'll be missed but we're ready for this weekend and we're really looking forward to it."

No. 8 Michael Wells also appeared to pull up sore at training, leaving the door open for more of a  reshuffle in a second row and loose forward group which will already be missing Ned Hanigan.

It's not the first time this season the Waratahs have been forced to cope with change, having a number of players coming in and out under the Wallabies' rotation policy already.

Phipps said the constant changes had helped them prepare for a week like this.

"Because we chop and change so much, it's good now that we're all learning those little combinations on the run and we're able to adapt pretty quickly," he said.

"A talent base like Israel's hard to replace but we've got other people to bring things that he possibly can't bring in areas, so it's tough but I'm fairly confident we've got the depth in our squad to be able to cover him."

While the Folau issue is a big one in rugby, it is far from the most significant thing Phipps has been through in the last week.

Phipps and wife Ebony became parents last Friday, with the birth of son, Huxley.

"You always talk to people who've got kids and you see that light in their eyes and now you know what they're talking about," he said.

"It's been awesome.

"I knew that it'd be a little bit of lack of sleep but I don't operate too badly on lack of sleep.

"You're not really that useful in the first few weeks, there's not too much you can help out with, a few shoulder pats and bit of burping at the end.

"I'm just there trying to support her."

The Waratahs take on the Rebels at the SCG on Saturday April 20, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.