Kurtley Beale stakes a claim on return

KURTLEY Beale pleased NSW Waratahs’ coach Michael Cheika in his return for the Super Rugby team as the battle for the No. 10 jersey ramped up in Albury.

Beale has made no secret of the fact five-eighth is his preferred spot, but the Wallabies star faces stiff competition from incumbent Bernard Foley.

Beale rejoined NSW this season after two disappointing years in Melbourne where he battled disciplinary and alcohol-related issues and injuries.

As well as lining up against his old teammates, Beale was playing his first game since a shoulder reconstruction last August.

“I had a few g’days from the boys at the bottom of a ruck but they were all good,” Beale said of the Rebels.

“I was more nervous before the game than I’d been in a long time because of my shoulder but they made me focus a little bit more on my game.”

The 25-year-old said he had “a lot of room to improve” but his shoulder came through well.

Cheika liked what he saw from Beale, who played half the match at five-eighth and then a quarter at fullback before briefly running in the centres.

Given the conditions and his long lay-off, Beale had some nice touches, combining well with Ben Volavola, who was mostly at fullback with Wallaby Israel Folau rested.

“He was pretty good,” Cheika said.

“He was sharp and he made a few incisive breaks.

“I thought it was a pretty positive first run.”

Beale said he felt right at home among the Waratahs, where he played for five years after making his senior debut in 2007.

“The guys around me have really supported me and it allows me to be myself.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself but they’re all great guys and I’ve known them for a long time so they have a good understanding of me.”

Waratahs No. 8 Wycliff Palu also made his return from injury, starting the third quarter and coming through unscathed in his first match since knee surgery nearly six months ago.

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