The NSW Waratahs are playing down Kurtley Beale’s injury setback and tipping the backline ace to burst to life in his expected return to fullback on Sunday.
Beale was unable to train on Wednesday, instead applying ice and heavy strapping to his right elbow, a legacy of Sunday’s hard-earned Super Rugby win over the Queensland Reds.
But halfback Nick Phipps dismissed fears the Wallabies star would miss the Waratahs’ conference derby with the Melbourne Rebels at Allianz Stadium.
“He’s just played back-to-back 80s for a lot of games, and they’re just resting him today,” Phipps said.
“He’s just got a niggly elbow. I’m sure he’ll be fine. He better be. He’s just looking after it.”
Beale has been earmarked to line up at fullback to allow Israel Folau to make his long-awaited move to outside centre to replace Rob Horne, who broke a forearm against the Reds.
Phipps is licking his lips at the prospect of not only Beale returning to the position in which he first made his name on the global stage and earned a world player of the year nomination in 2010, but also seeing Folau attacking from the front line.
“Those two are so versatile,” Phipps said.
“They can be used in any position and I think it’ll be good for KB to get a bit more space, less structure in his head so he can use a bit more of that x-factor.
“Let him sort of run around and have a red-hot crack at the back there knowing full well that we’ve got some great players in at 10 and 12 able to deliver him the ball.”
With Wallabies playmaker Bernard Foley making a successful comeback from a shoulder injury to guide the Waratahs home in a 15-13 nailbiter against the Reds, coach Daryl Gibson finally had a full complement of backs at his disposal.
But now he must reshuffle again with Horne on the sidelines.
“Ideally, we’d like to have a set backline week-to-week,” Phipps said.
“But we’ve copped a few injuries this year, which no doubt every team has, and we’ve got to adapt quickly.
“We’re lucky that everyone in the squad is able to slot in.”
The Waratahs are precariously placed third in the Australian conference – three points behind Melbourne and seven adrift of the Brumbies – and know the Rebels pose a major threat.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a blowout against the Rebels. They rise for this game,” said former Rebels No.9 Phipps.
“Especially I know, having been down there, that they love to play against NSW.”