Rugby: Under-fire Beale still right first-five fit for us - Slipper

By Justin Chadwick

Kurtley Beale. Picture / Getty Images
Kurtley Beale. Picture / Getty Images

Wallabies prop James Slipper says it's unfair to single out five-eighths Kurtley Beale for criticism following the side's recent 51-20 loss to the All Blacks in Auckland.

Calls are growing for Beale to be replaced by Bernard Foley for Saturday night's Rugby Championship clash with South Africa in Perth.

Beale struggled to fire in the key playmaker role during the Eden Park thrashing, but Slipper said the 25-year-old didn't receive much help from his teammates.

"He's a class player. We all know what he can do," Slipper said yesterday.

"The night wasn't his night. A part of that has got to do with the forward pack and the players around him.

"We didn't stick up for him and give him really good ball. Our decision-making across the game could have been handled a different way. We've learned from that.

It was definitely a reality check.

"We take full responsibility for what happened that night. It's in our hands to change that this weekend."

With the Wallabies needing to find a replacement for retired winger Pat McCabe (neck injury), Beale could be switched to second-five or the wing for Saturday's clash with the Springboks.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie is also pondering a number of other changes in a bid to get the side back on track.

Halfback Nic White and midfielder Matt Toomua could be axed in favour of Nick Phipps and Tevita Kuridrani, while James Hanson will replace injured hooker Nathan Charles for his first test start.

Former Wallabies skipper James Horwill is pushing for a recall after producing an impressive 40-minute display for Brisbane City in their National Rugby Championship win over Perth Spirit on Sunday.

And Western Force centre Kyle Godwin is also pressing for a call-up after making a successful return from a knee injury.

The Wallabies are last in the Rugby Championship standings, but they'll fancy their chances of beating a South African outfit which failed to impress in recent wins over Argentina.

The Springboks' powerful scrum copped a rare beating in the team's 33-31 win over Argentina in Salta, and Slipper said he and the rest of the Wallabies' forward pack were bracing for a backlash this weekend.

"It would be childish of us to go in there thinking we are going to physically bash the Springboks up," Slipper said. "With their performance against the Argentines in the set piece, I'm expecting them to improve out of sight and really come at us there. They're always the biggest team running around. You always know it's going to be a hard battle.

"They'll be keen to get out there and assert their dominance on us, and we'll be trying to do the same."

The Springboks are set to recall lineout master Victor Matfield, but Slipper said the Wallabies would be up for the challenge.

"We all know what Matfield can do and how he picks apart other teams' lineouts," Slipper said.

- AAP

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