Wallabies legend Tim Horan is backing Kurtley Beale to seize Matt Giteau’s No.12 jersey for Australia this winter.
In what looms as a straight-out choice between two of Michael Cheika’s pet players, Giteau and Beale appear in a head-to-head battle for the inside centre role for the Wallabies’ three-Test series with England in June.
In his first year as Wallabies coach, the influential Cheika effectively had the eligibility laws rewritten to ensure Giteau – among a select few – was available for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in Britain.
The so-called “Giteau’s law” worked a treat as the veteran midfield playmaker helped the Wallabies make the final against the odds.
But now Horan – arguably Australia’s greatest-ever inside centre and, apart from John Eales, the country’s only other two-time World Cup winner – wants to see Beale given a chance.
At 27, Beale is at the peak of his powers, while 33-year-old Giteau, although still massively influential, is clearly in the twilight of his career.
“I think the Matt Giteau experiment worked at the World Cup,” Horan told Rugby 360 on Fox Sports.
“I reckon Gits is close to 33 now. I reckon you let that go and allow these other players to come through.
“Kurtley Beale, do you put that carrot in front of him to try and keep him in Australian rugby rather than going off shore, by giving him the No.12 jersey?”
Beale is being courted by Wasps who have reportedly offered the midfield maestro $2.7 million to join the English Premiership at the end of the Super rugby season.
Cheika opting for Beale – his ex-NSW Waratahs charge he fought so hard to keep in the code when ARU boss Bill Pulver wanted him black-banned after a text message scandal – over Giteau could likely have major ramifications for the Wallabies backline.
With Israel Folau making a successful transition to outside centre alongside Beale for the Waratahs in Super Rugby, Cheika may be tempted to go with an all-NSW midfield – also including incumbent Test five-eighth Bernard Foley – at Test level.
But Tevita Kuridrani is intent on keeping the spot he’s owned for the past three seasons after going head to head with Folau in the Brumbies’ 26-20 win over the Tahs last Saturday.
“It was good to go up against Izzy, it was very challenging for me to play him at outside centre,” Kuridrani said.
“He’s a very talented guy. Anywhere you put him on the field he’ll always play well,” he said.
“Even before he played No.13, it was always a challenge for me to play better every week.
“A big thing for me is to keep improving and getting better … I’ll never relax and think I’ve got the jersey.
“But having someone like Izzy really does have you on your toes and I do think it will help me get better.”