Rugby: Beale may get nod to fill Cooper's position

Kurtley Beale looms as a first-five starter with Quade Cooper's absence. Photo / Getty Images
Kurtley Beale looms as a first-five starter with Quade Cooper's absence. Photo / Getty Images

Robbie Deans' backline dilemma has not been made any easier by Quade Cooper's knee injury, with a tough choice pending between Berrick Barnes and Kurtley Beale as Wallabies five-eighths.

Both Barnes and Beale are certain to line up against South Africa next week in Pretoria now Cooper is sidelined, but coach Deans is considering starting each away from their regular positions.

Building the intrigue, the playmaking selection is expected to reflect the style of play Australia aim to use to continue their recent dominance over the Springboks, winning seven of their past eight contests.

Renowned for his reliability, Barnes has better kicking skills more suited for a conservative field-position game while Beale is an explosive ball-running No10.

Barnes has often lined up at five-eighths for either the Waratahs or Wallabies with Beale his go-to man at fullback.

However, his solid performance in his first test at fullback, particularly his safety under the high ball, in last Saturday's 23-19 win over Argentina could see Barnes stay at No15.

Beale, dropped twice as starting fullback in the past month, has played his best rugby at five-eighths this year when he lined up as playmaker midway through the Super rugby season for the Melbourne Rebels. His combination with new Wallabies halfback and Rebels No9 Nick Phipps is also another argument for the 23-year-old to start his first test in the halves.

Former Wallabies centre Tim Horan believes Deans should move Barnes back to No10 where he performed with distinction in the 3-0 series whitewash of Wales and played beside inside centre Pat McCabe.

Deans named a 28-man touring squad on Wednesday for matches against the Springboks and Argentina (October 6) but only 25 flew out as lock Rob Simmons and backs Ben Tapuai and Mike Harris are allowed to play in tomorrow's Queensland club grand final.

None have been ruled out of the 22 to play the Springboks but Harris looms as the most likely to take a bench spot at Loftus Versfeld following news of Cooper's need for more knee surgery. Injured trio Stephen Moore, Sitaleki Timani and Dom Shipperley were all cleared to travel while NSW prop Paddy Ryan and Force winger Nick Cummins were the only uncapped players in the squad.

- AAP

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