Wallaby Kurtley Beale eyes Waratahs return

Murray Wenzel |

Kurtley Beale is set to pass up a new French club contract to link with the NSW Waratahs in 2023.
Kurtley Beale is set to pass up a new French club contract to link with the NSW Waratahs in 2023.

New NSW Waratahs coach Darren Coleman is hopeful Kurtley Beale will return to the club from France, but says it won’t happen until 2023 as the Wallabies talent eyes a fourth World Cup campaign.

The 93-Test veteran looked to have waved goodbye to Super Rugby when he left for French glamour club Racing 92 in 2020.

But his shock Wallabies recall during last year’s Spring Tour, after a spate of backline injuries, allowed Beale to spend time with new Australian coach Dave Rennie and reignite the fire.

Reports out of France indicated Beale would not extend his rich deal, preferring instead to return to the Waratahs, who lost all 13 games last season.

Coleman, who goes “way back” with the 33-year-old Beale, told reporters on Tuesday that “the deal is really close … but (there’s) no chance he’ll be here for 2022 for Super Rugby”.

The coach, who arrives at the Waratahs after leading the LA Giltinis to the Major League Rugby title in their first season, said Beale planned to finish his season in France before returning to Australia ahead of the 2023 campaign.

And he said whether he receives a Rugby Australia contract top-up was almost irrelevant, while his 93 Test caps mean he can feature for the Wallabies under current eligibility laws while still playing in France.

“If he makes a decision to come home, top-up or no top-up, he’d be taking a pretty significant haircut and that to me speaks volumes that he wants to be at the 2023 World Cup and I’d like to think he wants to be here to help us rebuild our team as well,” Coleman said.

“He’s matured … he’s gone away, experienced things overseas, had a taste of the Wallabies and that’s driven him to the interest he’s shown.”

Coleman also said Wallabies captain Michael Hooper would miss the beginning of the Super Rugby Pacific season, which kicks off on February 18. 

The backrower is still recovering from a foot injury that saw him miss the final Test of their Spring Tour, Coleman unsure of an exact return date but confident it would be “early” in the season.

Fellow forwards Ned Hanigan and Jed Holloway are back at the club too, while veteran Wales and British and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts is set to arrive next week as an injury replacement for Joey Walton.

Roberts, who’s played 94 Tests, has been granted an early release from Welsh club Dragons to join the Waratahs on compassionate grounds.

His Australian partner Nicole Ramson is expecting their second child in March and moved back to Sydney a few weeks ago.

Roberts, a standout in his two British and Irish Lions tours, scored the series-clinching try against Australia in 2013 as well as being named the Lions Player of the Series in their 2009 tour of South Africa.

“How good getting a legend like Jamie Roberts to the club … the stars aligned a bit on that one,” Coleman said.

“We’re comfortable with the numbers in our squad in all positions … (but after several injuries) centre is a spot in the cupboard that was really bare.”

The Waratahs play their first trial match of 2022 against the Brumbies on Saturday in Bowral.