Beale plays down talk of post-Izzy player division, hopes Folau can continue playing footy

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

Kurtley Beale says he'd love to see Israel Folau continue his rugby career somewhere but played down suggestions of player divisions after the Folau sacking was discussed at the Wallabies camp in Brisbane at the weekend.

Speaking at the launch of the Waratahs' first indigenous jersey - which they'll wear against the Jaguares at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday - Beale admitted he was still coming to grips with the "sad" reality of not playing with Folau again, and while keen now move on, the NSW fullback hopes his friend can still lace up a boot in the future.

In a statement foreshadowing legal action against Rugby Australia released on Monday, Folau said he believed he still has "a lot of rugby left in me".

That would likely have to be in European or Japanese rugby, given the NRL has made it known they won't welcome Folau back.

"I'd like to see him out on the footy field again. That's where we've made some special memories over the years and hopefully seeing him going out there doing what he loves," Beale said.

"He's always got my full support. It's sad to see such a talent leave the game and I wish him all the best for his future endeavours.

"I mean, on the field he was just unbelievable. The impact he had and the presence he had on the field was immense and it lifted everyone in the group. 

"He's an amazing talent and he will be missed."

Folau's decision to ignore warnings and post anti-gay material on social media has proved a major disruption to the Waratahs' season but NSW players and coaches have spoken frequently since about still caring about the welfare of Folau, as a friend and long-time teammate.

After the Code of Conduct tribunal's decision last week, the Waratahs are now attempting coming to terms with the finality of his termination.

Asked how he is reconciling the Folau he knows and the circumstances of his departure, Beale said: "It's a tricky situation. I don't really know to be honest."

"The outcome is the outcome and I think you've just got to let it be now. As a Waratah group, we're focused on the finals now," Beale said.

There has been much speculation about the reaction of players of faith in Australian rugby, particularly Polynesian players, to Folau's termination.

Some have suggested it would lead to disharmony between them and those who publicly criticised Folau's actions, including Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

Beale said the Folau issue was raised off the top at the Wallabies camp in Brisbane, and that he didn't see any evidence of division or rifts.

"That was one of the main meetings, we did it in small groups and we did touch on it (Folau's termination). Guys let it out and then we got on with the camp," Beale said.

"It's obviously an issue that needed to be addressed and I thought the coaches gave the players an opportunity to speak about it, if they wanted to speak about it, and after those meetings everyone was down to business.

"Everyone was pretty good. Obviously there's a lot of speculation around that (division) stuff but I think those camps are for individuals to step up to make sure we're all committing to the cause ... and there was no sign of that at all.

"It was all positive and I think just a lot of excitement for what we have to come."

Beale's emotions about Folau departing are no doubt mixed, too, given he has thrived since being asked to move back to fill the vacancy at no.15.

He'll have plenty of competition in Dane Haylett-Petty and Tom Banks but Beale's form for the Waratahs at no.15 has him firmly in the mix to also play fullback for the Wallabies.

Beale admitted the move had helped him re-capture a spark in his game.

"I think so and also the way a lot of teams are playing this year with big ball-carrying centres, obviously defence is getting a lot better now in and around those tight channels," he said.

" I think there's a lot more freedom at the back to be able to exploit many opportunities and I'm finding I'm doing that at the moment.

"So hopefully I can continue to do that."

Beale said there'd been no firm discussion in the Wallabies camp about whether he'd play fullback.

"There's no real cemented position in my eyes and I think that's a good thing for Australian rugby at the moment," Beale said.

With the Australian conference so tight, the Waratahs had a vital win over the Reds last weekend but must keep banking points and they'll have a tough job against the Jaguares at Bankwest.

The Argentinian side have been in excellent form recently, winning five of their last six games - including a big win over the Hurricanes in Wellington last start.

The Waratahs have not beaten the Jaguares in their two encounters so far.

"They’re extremely talented," Beale said.

"They’re a big mobile forward pack and some zippy backs out wide, it brings a lot of unpredictability to their team, and their chip kicks, their flick passes and their offload game is pretty powerful. If we can nullify that and shut that down early and stay in the fight, like we did last week, we will give ourselves a chance."

The Waratahs take on the Jaguares at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday, kickoff at 7.45pm. LIVE coverage on FoxSports, KAYO and RUGBY.com.au Radio.