Kurtley Beale dropped to the bench for Blues clash. Picture: AFP
Kurtley Beale dropped to the bench for Blues clash. Picture: AFP

Horror statistic relegates Beale to bench

KURTLEY Beale's suspect defence has cost him a starting spot against Auckland as the Waratahs try to plug the gaping holes that appeared in the Blue Wall last week.

With Michael Hooper, the leading tackler in Super Rugby this season, taking a scheduled break in line with the team's unpopular rotation policy, coach Daryl Gibson can't afford to have any leaks if the Waratahs want to get their season back on track.

That's bad news for Beale, who missed four tackles in the first half of last week's embarrassing loss to the Sunwolves and has been relegated to the bench with Karmichael Hunt and Adam Ashley-Cooper starting in the midfield.

With players under intense scrutiny ahead of the World Cup, a diplomatic Gibson insists Beale hasn't been axed but admitted he opted for Hunt at inside centre because of his superior defence to thwart the hard-running New Zealanders.

"No, he hasn't been dropped. I've looked at Auckland and I look at where they're strong. They've got some big boppers coming down that channel," Gibson said.

"I've selected a combination in the middle which I believe can combat that.

"And that's where Karmichael and Adam really excel in the defensive area and there's a role for Kurtley coming off the bench in providing that spark in attack."

Gibson's got 22 reasons to be worried about the Waratahs' defence because that's how many tackles they missed against the last placed Sunwolves after previously boasting that their defence was so strong they'd given it a new name - the Blue Wall.

Hooper is set for an unpopular rest. Picture: Getty
Hooper is set for an unpopular rest. Picture: Getty

Bernard Foley, who has also missed more than his fair share of tackles this season, takes over the captaincy after returning to the team alongside Ashley-Cooper and Jack Dempsey while Will Miller will start at openside flanker for Hooper.

"No player wants to be told they're resting this week. They all want to play and that's a good thing," Gibson said.

"Sometimes players don't know what's best for them. They're not going to play 16 games straight and expect to be at their best and that's what this is designed around."

The players all hate being rotated out of the side and it's proven to be a major disruption to the Waratahs because they've had to chop and change all season but Gibson says that's no excuse for not turning up against an Auckland side that will be without Sonny Bill Williams but has won three on the trot.

"Within seven days we had polarised performances and a lot of that was our attitude into the game around our intent. It's been very easy around making sure we get back to the levels we know we can," he said.

"There's a shift in intensity. We were very bitterly disappointed with how we showed ourselves Friday night and each player, everyone on the team's had a good, hard look at themselves and gone, 'That's not us."

WARATAHS TEAM TO PLAY BLUES: 15-Israel Folau 14-Cam Clark 13-Adam Ashley-Cooper 12-Karmichael Hunt 11-Alex Newsome 10-Bernard Foley 9-Nick Phipps 8-Michael Wells 7-Will Miller 6-Jack Dempsey 5-Rob Simmons 4-Ned Hanigan 3-Sekope Kepu 2-Damien Fitzpatrick 1-Harry Johnson-Holmes Reserves: 16-Andrew Tuala 17-Rory O'Connor 18-Chris Talakai 19-Tom Staniforth 20-Lachlan Swinton 21-Jake Gordon 22-Kurtley Beale 23-Lalakai Foketi

News Corp Australia


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