Joe Launchbury knows all about the attacking threat Kurtley Beale poses England at Twickenham on Saturday after Wasps helped the Australian full back recover from knee reconstruction last season.
When Beale arrived at Wasps in May last year on a two year deal he faced months of rehabilitation and the skill of the club’s medical staff allied to Beale’s burning desire to live up to his reported £750,000 a year salary saw the Wallaby make his first team debut against Connacht in December and he marked the moment with a trade mark try.
Beale became so important to table topping Wasps that Launchbury, the club captain, believes they would have beaten Exeter in the Premiership final if the full back/centre has not been ruled out of selection by injury. Instead, Wasps lost in extra time and Beale then headed back to Australia having been told by head coach Michael Cheika that he was needed to turn their fortunes around. Beale proved his class in the Rugby Championship which ended with the Wallabies beating New Zealand 23-18 last month.
Beale grabbed the Wallabies fourth and final try as they beat Wales 29-21 in Cardiff on a day when England failed to reach any attacking heights while defeating Argentina 21-8 at Twickenham. However, England have won their last four matches with the Wallabies and that will give Launchbury and his team mates confidence as the No2 team in the World takes on the No3.
The Wallabies have been operating more effectively thanks to Beale’s footballing ability that makes him a constant threat with ball in hand, either operating at inside centre or hitting the line with real pace from full back. While his defence in the No12 channel has been questioned, the positives he brings to the back line, providing tactical options and support for outside half Bernard Foley, far outweigh the negatives. His try against Wales encapsulated his ability to create and score tries from nothing.
Wales wing Steff Evans took the ball one armed into contact and Beale ripped it off him and then sprinted away as a dumbfounded home defence tried to work out how the Wallaby full back was now 50m away sprinting unopposed under the posts.
Launchbury said:” It was obviously bad luck for the club that Kurtley got injured the day after we announced his signing and we didn’t see him until December but in the next six months we saw the talent he had. He played a big part in us getting to the Premiership final and unfortunately he picked up a niggle and couldn’t play which was disappointing for Kurtley and the club. Now, he has gone back to Australia and was desperate to represent his country.
“ He felt that was something he had really missed when he came to England. I don’t think he realised just how much he would miss playing for the Wallabies and he has shown in the last ten games or so what a great player he is. He has been a real stand out player for the Wallabies and is very clever. Kurtley can play No12 or No15 which are his two best positions and I couldn’t really pick which is his best because he operates so well in both. “
Launchbury is convinced playing alongside Beale helped England wing/centre Elliot Daly deliver the kind of attacking rugby that earned him a place in the Lions test team against New Zealand in the summer. “ Kurtley makes his decisions so late and close to the gain line that it is a real problem for defences:” added Launchbury.” Elliot really enjoyed playing with him and he was really beneficial for our England players when he was with us. They learnt a lot off him and to have an opportunity to play with someone at the top of their game was brilliant for them. “
Beale attracts attention on and off the pitch and a picture of him in only his “budge smugglers” greeting Prince William in the Wallaby dressing room after the win over Wales has been a social media sensation.