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Waratahs backing Beale to be the main man

Darren Walton 31/03/2011 03:10:45 PM Comments (0)

The NSW Waratahs are backing the new and improved Kurtley Beale to dominate from five-eighth in Friday night's Super Rugby clash against the Chiefs.

With Berrick Barnes sidelined after being concussed in Saturday night's thrilling win over the Brumbies, Beale returns to the key playmaker's position for the first time since making a spectacular move to fullback last year.

Revelling in the added freedom and space afforded him at the back, Beale capped a stellar 2010 with a world player of the year nomination - heady days for the one-time schoolboy prodigy who struggled to find his feet when handed the NSW No.10 jumper as a teenager in 2007.

But while he's excelled in the No.15 role, Waratahs skipper Phil Waugh said anyone doubting Beale's ability to make the transition from support act to main man had short memories.

"A lot's been said about Kurtley going to 10 but Kurtley took us to the final in `08, did a terrific job leading the team around the field in `08," Waugh said on Friday.

"I guess his opportunity has come at fullback in recent times but he's certainly a very capable No.10 and we're looking forward to him running the game for us."

Indeed, Beale was instrumental in setting up the Waratahs' 12-3 lead over the Crusaders in the 2008 final in Christchurch before injury forced him from the field midway through the second half with NSW still holding their nine-point advantage.

NSW coach Chris Hickey had other options, including recalling specialist fly-half Daniel Halangahu for the Chiefs challenge, but said he had no hesitation in thrusting Beale into the hot seat.

"With Berrick being out and Kurtley stepping up to 10, that decision wasn't a hard one to make," he said.

"We're really confident about how Kurtley will perform in that position."

The Waratahs are likely to employ Queensland's tactics of protecting their star five-eighth Quade Cooper, by shifting Beale to fullback in defence.

Not that Waugh believes Beale needs any protection.

"That's one part of his game that he's really improved," Waugh said.

"You look through all the footage of him and his tackles in the last 12, 18 months and he just puts his body on the line.

"It's more of an attitude thing than anything else and he's really stepped up in that area."

Sitting four points behind Australian conference leaders Queensland, the Waratahs are intent on maintaining the pressure on the Reds after bouncing back from their shock round-five loss to the Cheetahs with a last-minute victory over the Brumbies.

"We've taken some good momentum out of scoring that (late) try last week and it's really important in this competition to work off that momentum and tomorrow night is a big night for us," Waugh said.

"The Chiefs are a dangerous team - you look at their attacking players and ability to score points.

"In saying that, we've got some good attackers as well.

"It's important to win the battle up front, but we'll be looking to give guys like Kurtley and Drew (Mitchell) and Afa (Pakalani) and Lachie Turner the ball in space (because) they can score tries too.

"I think it's going to be an open game tomorrow night."

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