Sydney - Playmaker Kurtley Beale has declared himself fit
for this weekend's Rugby Championship opener against New Zealand in what would
be his first match for Australia for nearly two years.
Beale's last match for his country was as a replacement in
the 2015 World Cup final against the All Blacks, with injury having prevented
him from pulling on the green and gold since.
Having recovered from a hamstring problem that prematurely
ended his stint in England with Wasps in May, Beale said he was ready to face
the world champions again in Sydney on Saturday.
"No nerves, just excitement, it's great to be back in
the Wallabies environment, training's been good," he told reporters at the
Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.
"For me, I'm in a really good space at the moment and
I'm looking forward to putting my best foot forward on Saturday."
Beale is the last man standing of a trio of exciting young
backs dubbed the "Three Amigos" who once offered Australia hope of a
return to the days around the turn of the century when they had the best team
in the world.
A miserable litany of off-field scandals and on-field slumps
have seen the other two, James O'Connor and Quade Cooper, slide out of the
Wallabies picture over the last two years.
Beale has been no stranger to disciplinary problems himself
after punching his Melbourne Rebels captain in 2013 and playing an
undistinguished role in the 2014 texting scandal that resulted in Wallabies
coach Ewen McKenzie stepping down.
Michael Cheika rehabilitated him at the Waratahs, however,
and reaped the benefits when he moved on to the Wallabies job.
Recast as a playmaking centre coming off the bench to test
tired defences with his quick feet and eye for a gap, Beale was integral to
Australia's success in the truncated 2015 Rugby Championship and the World Cup
Cheika embarked upon an overhaul of his squad after the
World Cup final defeat, however, and the team Beale is likely to return to on
Saturday will be all but unrecognisable from the one that last beat the All
Blacks in Sydney in 2015.
Now 28 with 60 caps under his belt, Beale is among the more
experienced Wallabies players even if he appeared lukewarm about taking on the
mantle of elder statesman.
"There's a lot of new guys have come through over the
last couple of years," Beale added.
"Obviously, there's a bit of responsibility there to
help these young guys come through and help them out in their preparation and
their mindset to tackle the week.
"But at the end of the day we're all the same, players,
and we're all pointing to one thing."
One familiar face is fullback Israel Folau and Australians
will be hoping the friends can reprise a partnership that worked so well when
the Waratahs won the 2014 Super Rugby title.
"I've been looking forward to KB's return for some
time," said Folau, who failed to score a try in last year's Rugby
"I think we've got a great combination ... We really
just can't wait to get out there and play."