Beale back in as fullback makes remarkable Wallabies squad return

Fri, Jun 21, 2024, 8:22 AM
by AAP
Joe Schmidt press conference Wallabies Squad announcement

Veteran utility Kurtley Beale could be headed to the 100-Test club after being recalled in Joe Schmidt's much-anticipated first Wallabies squad-naming since replacing Eddie Jones as coach.

Beale has been impressive since linking up with the Western Force in the Super Rugby Pacific competition in April after being cleared of sexual assault allegations and missing the entire 2023 season.

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But the 35-year-old's inclusion in Schmidt's 38-man squad for Australia's upcoming Tests against Wales and Georgia was one of the bigger surprises of Friday's announcement.

The one-time World Player of the Year nominee hasn't featured for the Wallabies since answering an SOS call to join the 2021 spring tour squad following an injury to Reece Hodge.

The versatile Beale, who has played fullback, wing, centre and five-eighth amid his 95 Tests, was among 17 backs named, with 21 forwards included.

In a potential precursor to selection of his starting XV to face Wales in Sydney on July 6, Schmidt said Beale had combined superbly with five eighth Ben Donaldson at the Force. 

"If you're in the squad, you're a chance to put the boots on in a 23 at some stage during the three-week period," he said.

"Kurtley's played well. Feedback from the Force has been really positive about his influence."

Brumbies halfback Ryan Lonergan was another omission, with Schmidt preferring to bring NSW Waratahs captain Jake Gordon back in from the cold. 

There were also recalls for Brumbies No.10 Noah Lolesio and Reds back-rowers Liam Wright and Harry Wilson, who suffered a broken arm mid-season. 

Rebels lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto won selection despite missing the back-end of the Super season following foot surgery.

Schmidt didn't consider overseas-based players, while others including Max Jorgensen, Angus Bell, Rob Leota, Lachlan Lonergan and Dave Porecki were ruled out through injury.

The coach conceded ringing Lonergan and his Brumbies teammate Darcy Swain were among the toughest of the calls to 31 players he made personally to advise they'd missed the cut.

"The playoff games always carry a little bit more weight. You're playing at a slightly higher level, a little bit more pressure," Schmidt said behind the number of newcomers named.

"But there's a lot more pressure to come. So there's a number of guys in the squad who aren't pressure-tested and we're pretty keen to learn a bit about them over these next three Test matches." 

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