Tomorrow night’s opening match of the 2014 Bledisloe Cup series looms as the biggest test of Kurtley Beale’s career.
His selection at five-eighth in place of incumbent Bernard Foley has raised eyebrows on both sides of the Tasman, putting the spotlight squarely on Beale in a manner not unlike that faced by Quade Cooper during the 2011 World Cup.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen yesterday suggested Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie was pressured to slot Beale in at five-eighth as he was off-contract and rumoured to be considering a move to rugby league.
“I wouldn’t dignify the comment,” McKenzie said on panel show Rugby HQ last night.
“I picked the team to play the All Blacks, to beat the All Blacks. That’s what I picked the team to do.
“I go about the process of selection like every other game and we picked what we believe is the right combination to do the job.”
Even Beale’s teammate Nic White admitted his selection was a surprise, but Hansen was clearly playing games with the Wallabies, also suggesting McKenzie maybe didn’t trust Foley to “be able to do what he wants against us”.
The first game in the tri-match series kicks off at 8pm, tomorrow night, at ANZ Stadium.
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