France vs Australia: Michael Cheika calls Kurtley Beale back into the Wallaby fold

Controversial back returns after almost international career was almost ended

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Controversial back Kurtley Beale will join up with the Australia squad on Sunday, three weeks after a disciplinary hearing almost ended his international career.

Beale and back-rower Jake Schatz have been summoned from Down Under to link up with the squad in Dublin, a day after today’s Test against France in Paris. The Wallabies still have Ireland and England to play on their autumn tour.

Schatz replaces Scott Higginbotham, who suffered a hamstring injury suffered against the Barbarians on 1 November. Beale will replace nobody; his recall appears to be at the behest of new Australia coach Michael Cheika, who works with him  at New South Wales Waratahs.

Beale was fined Aus$40,000 for sending an offensive photograph to team business manager Di Patston in June; he escaped having his Australian Rugby Union contract terminated because there was not enough evidence that he sent a second, more lewd message.

The scandal blew up on the flight from South Africa to Argentina during the Rugby Championship when Beale and Patston argued. Beale was suspended, and Patston returned to Australia and quit. The fallout included coach Ewen McKenzie, who quit days before the Wallabies left for their European tour.

ARU chairman Michael Hawker and chief executive Bill Pulver recommended Beale be sacked, but the hearing lifted his suspension, and he has been training while receiving encouragement from the Wallabies. He is still negotiating a contract extension beyond this year.

France need no extra motivation to beat Australia at Stade de France today – the statistics are enough. A 3-0 whitewash in their Test series in June made it eight defeats in nine matches against the Wallabies: they were thumped 50-23 and 39-13 in Australia, and also went down 6-0. Coach Philippe Saint-André, who started three new backs in last weekend’s 40-15 win over Fiji, is desperate to scrub away the humiliation of that June debacle, when he lambasted his own players for giving up.

“We have a triple revenge to take. What struck me most was the third test [39-13] where we collapsed too quickly,” Saint-André said. “That’s unacceptable when you represent a country.”

France: Spedding, Huget, Dumoulin, Fofana, Thomas; Lopez, Tillous-Borde; Menini, Guirado, Mas, Papé, Maestri, Dusautoir (capt), Le Roux, Chouly.

Replacements: Chiocci, Kayser, Atonio, Flanquart, Vahaamahina, Nyanga, Ollivon, Kockott, Talès, Mermoz, Bastareaud, Médard.

Australia: Folau, Ashley-Cooper, Kuridrani, Leali’ifano; Tomane, Foley, Phipps; Slipper, Fainga’a, Kepu, Horwill, Simmons, McMahon, Hooper (capt), McCalman.

Replacements: Hanson, Robinson, Alexander, Skelton, Hodgson, Genia, Cooper, Horne.