Wallabies playmaker Kurtley Beale identifies Ireland's threats ahead of three Test series

Alex Broun 6/06/2018
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Wallabies playmaker Kurtley Beale is ready for the Irish challenge

Wallabies chief playmaker, and 2010 World Rugby player of the year nominee, Kurtley Beale is well known for being able to dissect opposing defences.

To identify their weak spot and with a rapier like thrust or perfectly timed pass cut them to ribbons.

But chatting to the Blacktown born 29-year-old it’s clear that it’s not just on the field he’s able to dissect the opposition.

Ask him about the threats Ireland pose ahead of the three-Test series, which begins in Brisbane this Saturday (UAE: 14:00) and he cuts straight to the quick.

Sport360 put him on the spot to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Grand Slam champions.

Q Ireland have just come off an incredibly successful Six Nations campaign. What do you expect from them in this series?

A They obviously bring their own unique strategy.

I think firstly they are a squad, a team, that lays a very solid platform up front. (They are) very set piece orientated and then from that they rely on direct running off (fly half) Johnny Sexton and (scrum half) Conor Murray.

Very simple but very effective on the way they run their lines, (as well as) smart and very clinical at the breakdown and that allows them to be able to spread the ball to their pace out wide.

Q Is that one of Ireland’s strengths – the simplicity of their approach?

A It probably is some of the most simple things, the simplest plan, and I think it’s something we can really nullify and encourages us to work on our defence.

When we have tactics for the physicality of the game, it’s something that needs to be laid down from the first moment, as I think that will be important in determining which team will have the momentum to carry out the game.

Beale is full of praise for Johnny Sexton

Beale is full of praise for Johnny Sexton

Q You spent a year playing with Wasps in 2016-17, did that help you get more of an insight into the way Ireland play?

A Knowing a lot of their key players, that obviously has a huge influence on their team. Murray, Sexton – two of probably the most in form halves in the world at the moment.

A lot of their play dictates how the Irish play and coming off the Six Nations – they had a huge influence on how they won that – Leinster as well with Sexton in the PRO14 and Champions Cup – he had a huge part to play there.

They’re very simple, (a) well drilled, type of player. Again, going back to the halves, the players like Sexton, he’s obviously the most creative player but outside him, the backs are damaging runners possessing good feet and their pace out wide is also electrifying.

Q One of the key attacking weapons for the Wallabies will be your understanding with fly-half Bernard Foley. Tell us about your partnership. It seems very balanced.

A Bernard’s obviously an exceptional player and he’s a great ball player. He’s pretty solid in his game. He knows how to steady the ship.

We do have that balance, where he’s the guy that’s very calm, composed and I’m the guy that loves to take the risk and spark the backline.

We feel we have that good combination and that good balance of knowing when to play and when not to.

That understanding of what we want from each other in key moments in the game is vital and we know that if we can do that, and combine well and work together in those two playmaker roles, we’re able to create space for our outside men.

Q You also have some exciting players out wide – Israel Folau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Reece Hodge, Tevita Kuridrani. How important will it be to get them into the game?

A All exciting players in their own specific positions. They bring a lot to the group in bringing different strengths to our game, that adds a lot of unpredictability to how we want to play.

We’ve had experience over the last few years so we are used to each other in how we want to play the game and I think that’s important leading in to this series.

With such a short turnaround (six days from the last Super Rugby game to the first Test), short amount of time to get preparations right, combinations with those three positions is certainly crucial and something that we need to be ready and able to utilise.

Q The Wallabies had an up and down 2017, beating the All Blacks but losing twice to Scotland (home and away) and falling to England (30-6) at Twickenham. Where do you think the team is at?

A There’s a very good dynamic in the group mixed with senior and youngsters coming through.

There’s more experience than inexperience in the team and that makes a big difference in allowing us to take on opposition.

This is a really well-balanced group, the culture. We’re a tight bunch and we get the best out of each other – although we’re still building on believing in the potential that we can deliver.

And I think throughout the year that’s something that Michael Cheika will certainly be instilling in us.

Kurtley Beale's partnership with Bernard Foley (above) will be crucial to their success.

Kurtley Beale’s partnership with Bernard Foley (above) will be crucial to their success.

Q Is this Ireland series an important step in the Wallabies development towards RWC 2019?

A This Ireland series is a great opportunity for us as a group to keep stepping forward and keep progressing on those certain areas, like believing in each other and trusting ourselves at this level.

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Crusaders flanker Pete Samu released to make his Wallabies debut against Ireland

Alex Broun 3/06/2018
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Pete Samu is free to play for the Wallabies

The ugly standoff between Rugby Australia (RA) and the New Zealand Rugby (NZR) over Melbourne-born Crusaders flanker Pete Samu is over with the 26-year-old cleared today to join the Wallabies squad in Brisbane ahead of the opening match of the three Test Series against world No2 Ireland on Saturday.

Samu’s release had been held up after the NZR had reportedly demanded NZD$50,000 in compensation for the player who has signed to play for the Brumbies in Super Rugby next season.

One of Super Rugby’s most consistent players Samu has scored eight tries in 28 games for the ladder leaders since making his debut against the Blues in 2016.

He is expected to slot directly into Michael Cheika’s match day 23 and may even start against Ireland at Suncorp this Saturday night.

Samu’s defection follows on Hurricanes captain and flanker Brad Shields joining England for their upcoming series against South Africa.

RA Chief Executive Raelene Castle said: “I want to thank New Zealand Rugby for their consideration in releasing Peter for international duties.

“Our discussions were robust but fair and I’m pleased we’ve reached an agreement to allow Peter the opportunity to represent his country,” Castle said.

Samu will return to New Zealand after the Ireland series before completing his club duties for the Crusaders.

At the end of his Super Rugby commitments, Samu will be released from the final year of his contract with Tasman Rugby Union and eligible for selection in the Wallabies squad for Rugby Championship and for the Canberra Vikings in the 2018 National Rugby Championship (NRC).

He will be an exciting addition for the Vikings in the NRC this season as they aim to go one better in 2018 after finishing runners-up last year.

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Youthful Wales side overcome South Africa 22-20 in Washington

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Wales' Ryan Elias (3rd r) is congratulated after scoring by his team-mates.

Warren Gatland praised Wales’ next generation of young talent after they held on to secure a dramatic 22-20 victory over South Africa at Washington’s RFK Stadium.

The game in the American capital had its critics with both sides fielding inexperienced line-ups and former Wales captain Gwyn Jones declaring it a money-spinning PR exercise.

Gatland refuted that claim and his team certainly delivered on the pitch as Ryan Elias’ late try sealed success for Wales in the American capital.

A late penalty from Robert du Preez looked to have given the South Africans the edge, but the replacement fly-half then had a clearance kick charged down by Tomos Williams and Elias pounced to win the game.

Gatland said: “Who would want to be a coach? The end was dramatic and maybe our game management could have been better, but I thought we played well in the first half.

“The young guys will take a lot from this and there will be a lot of learning from them moving forwards. I thought captain Ellis Jenkins was outstanding and so was Tomos Williams.

“There are a couple of things to work on, but we are looking forward to going to Argentina now which will be a big step up for us.”

Skipper Jenkins added: “The guys showed great determination to see out the game and the main positive is the caps and experience some of our younger guys got from the match.

“It’s a Test match and the atmosphere was very good. Everything we’ve heard surrounding this game was very positive and we’re really pleased to get the result.”

Wales had gone to the break 14-3 up, tries from Hallam Amos and scrum-half debutant Williams responding to a penalty from Elton Jantjies.

In the second half, the Springboks hit back as Test debutants Travis Ismaiel and Makazole Mapimpi both crossed for tries, the latter coming after a yellow card for Wales centre Owen Watkin who was penalised for deliberately knocking the ball out of play.

Du Preez then replaced Jantjies and kicked South Africa ahead, but Elias won it at the death. The only downside for Wales was a first-half injury to wing Steffan Evans.

“Steff hyper-extended his knee and we’ll have to have a look at that on a scan. It doesn’t look brilliant, but we’ll just have to wait and see,” Gatland said.

“The heat out there was something we’ll experience in Japan at the World Cup next year and that will be a big benefit to us moving forwards.”

South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus was disappointed to see his team lose at the death in what was the former Munster boss’s first game in charge of the Springboks.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted and that’s disappointing because no-one ever wants to lose a Test match,” Erasmus said.

“There were a lot of defensive errors and we have to improve.

“All three of Wales’ tries came from kicking mistakes and overall it was very tough. We took a gamble by only flying into Washington on Wednesday, but the positive of that is we will have more time to prepare for the game with England when we get home.”

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