Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: All Blacks to target Beale's fallibility

All Black coach Steve Hansen wasn't so much bemused by the Wallabies' decision to select Kurtley Beale at first-five, he was delighted.

Beale is a talent when he's on - but he has to be on. And, despite his glorious season with the Waratahs, the All Blacks suspect Beale remains psychologically fallible.

They think he's the sort of player they can upset, much like Quade Cooper. By halftime, Beale could have won the game for the Wallabies or he could just as easily be a quivering wreck - uncertain about himself and all those around him.

And the All Blacks will relish the challenge of making sure it is the latter. The loose trio know a little about this test football business and they have a few tricks on how to hassle and harry a first-five. All three of them are able to hit a dancing pivot in the places that really hurt, especially Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read. If every international No10 drew up a list of loose forwards to avoid running into - somewhere near the top would be the names Kaino and Read.

The destruction of Wallabies first-fives has often been the game within the game these past few years.

Matt Giteau was the first Wallaby No10 the All Blacks mentally crushed. A world class talent most of the time, Giteau delivered against the All Blacks none of the time.

He just didn't fancy it. Never seemed to be able to give of his best in the big Bledisloe tests.

Then there was Cooper. Poor old Quade. His humiliation at the hands of the All Blacks was total. He'd run where he shouldn't. Kick like he couldn't and pretty much wrap the game up in expensive paper, tie a bow round it and hand it to the All Blacks.

Beale could buck the trend but he's been susceptible, albeit in different positions, to meltdowns in the past. Perhaps, though, the bigger reason the All Blacks were delighted to see Beale at 10 is the pressure it will create if the Wallabies don't perform well and win tonight. What then?

They will be one game into the series and have a big decision to make about a critical position. Will they persevere with Beale or revert to the in-form, lower risk Bernard Foley for the Eden Park test?

That's the risk Ewen McKenzie has taken: he has gambled hard on Beale being sensational tonight and delivering the win. If he does, his decision looks inspired. If he doesn't, the Wallabies are going to have to either persevere with Beale when the All Blacks know they can rattle him and win with him there. Or they are going to have make a significant change and give the impression they have lost faith in what they are doing.

Hansen said: "We are going to have to rattle a few of them if we are going to win." But maybe they only need to get to Beale.

- NZ Herald

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