MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia coach Michael Cheika has dangled the carrot of a more senior role for Kurtley Beale in the Wallabies set-up if the playmaker is prepared to come home early from England.
The 28-year-old Beale started a lucrative two-year deal with Premiership club Wasps last year but has the option to return to Australia and is yet to decide on his playing future.
A serious knee injury wiped out Beale’s international season last year and he played the last of his 60 tests in the 2015 World Cup final defeat to New Zealand.
Cheika had Beale playing off the bench during the tournament behind starting inside centre Matt Giteau. It proved an effective gambit but Beale complained about his back-up role before his departure overseas.
“Beale before wasn’t starting, he was hole-fixing, but I think it will be different for him this time, because I’ve got a clear vision of what I want him to do in the team,” Cheika told local media.
”I know it’s only been a year but in that year there’s been a big change in the Wallabies squad as well.
“He’ll come back with a slightly different stature I’d say and I want him to play according to that.”
After a delayed start due to the knee injury, Beale has helped the Wasps top the table with five rounds to play in the regular season.
Wasps coach Dai Young said over the weekend that he expected Beale to confirm his playing future this week.
The Wallabies landscape has shifted dramatically since the World Cup and France-based Giteau, now 34, is unlikely to be a part of Cheika’s plans as he builds towards the 2019 tournament in Japan.
With Beale, Giteau and Matt Toomua all injured last year, Cheika used Reece Hodge at inside centre and the Melbourne Rebel impressed in his debut year.
“I think Reece has done wonderfully well,” Cheika said.
“If we’re going to do well at international level we need two if not three players fighting for each position.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Mulvenney