Kurtley Beale was yesterday recalled to the Wallabies team for this weekend’s third Test against Wales, underlining Australia’s determination to wrap up the series 3-0.
Beale’s return at fullback after recovering from a shoulder injury was one of two changes to the starting lineup from the team which beat the Six Nations champions 25-23, courtesy of Mike Harris’ late penalty last week to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
Sitaleki Timani also returns to the side to win his third cap after missing the first two Tests with injury, replacing Rob Simmons in the second row alongside Nathan Sharpe, who will win his 105th cap.
Beale, who has been in fine form this season at flyhalf for the Melbourne Rebels, was selected despite being charged with assault after a fracas at a nightclub before Australia’s 27-19 victory in the first Test in Brisbane.
Beale and flyhalf Quade Cooper, who was ruled out of the series as he continues to recover from the injury he suffered at last year’s World Cup, are also the subject of an Australian Rugby Union investigation into the incident.
“It has been frustrating for Kurtley and he’s obviously had some off-field challenges to deal with as well, but it was important for all concerned that he had full confidence in his shoulder before we looked at re-introducing him to the Test arena,” Australia coach Robbie Deans said in a news release.
Winger Cooper Vuna makes way for his Super Rugby teammate in the back three, with the versatile Adam Ashley-Cooper moving from fullback to take Vuna’s place out wide.
“It’s been a while now after injuring my shoulder and just very excited about the opportunity to play an exciting team like Wales. I’m raring to go,” Beale said.
Beale said he was happy to play any position for his country, while Deans said the flexibility of his backline meant the 23-year-old would turn up in the flyhalf position at some point in the Test.
Simmons is relegated to a bench packed with five forwards, while Saturday last week’s Melbourne hero, Harris, and Vuna, who was cleared to play after escaping further punishment for tackling Leigh Halfpenny in the air last weekend, miss out altogether.
Meanwhile, veteran Wallaby lock Nathan Sharpe has postponed his retirement and is set to play in the inaugural Rugby Championship against New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.
Deans said Sharpe, 34, was willing to delay his exit from the game with skipper James Horwill expected to be out for the season, because of a ruptured hamstring and veteran Dan Vickerman also unavailable.
“Sharpie’s indicated he’s willing and keen to continue into the Rugby Championship, so that’s good news for the team,” Deans said yesterday.
“Obviously it’s a big decision for Sharpie, because it was a conscious choice of his to communicate that he was going to retire, intending to retire. He’d made plans around his life beyond the game, so he’s had to put them on hold, and that’s never straightforward,” he added.
Sharpe, who has played 104 Tests, announced in February he would quit all competitive rugby at the end of July and move into the resources industry, while also working as a media commentator.
The Rugby Championship, which replaces the Tri-Nations tournament involving New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, starts on Aug. 18.