• Beale likely to face Marshall

    Kurtley Beale should come up against former NRL star Benji Marshall when the Waratahs meet the Blues in a Super Rugby warm-up match in Sydney on 7 February.

    Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has been pleased with the return of the Wallabies back, who's been training well in the playmaking position.

    ‘Beale will definitely be playing. He has come through the pre-season very well. I have been impressed with him,’ said Cheika. ‘We see him as a 10 or a 15 but obviously we are pretty well off in those positions, so the outcome of those games will largely contribute to who we select.’

    While Beale has more experience at Super Rugby and international level at fullback, the form of Israel Folau makes it more likely that Beale will compete for the No 10 jersey alongside Bernard Foley.

    ‘Israel [Folau] had such a stellar year at fullback, in my opinion he is one of the best fullbacks in the world and we would be loathe to shift him from that position,' said Waratahs attack coach Daryl Gibson.

    If Beale is to get the nod at No 10 over Foley, he will come up against Marshall, who is said to be preferred at flyhalf for the Blues.

    ‘I have always thought that in rugby league you have far more time and space, so it will be interesting to see how he is coping with a defensive line that is right up on him,’ Gibson said of Marshall, who is still making the transition into union after 10 years of rugby league. ‘Obviously Benji is a class player and he has shown that through his league career. It is how quickly he can adapt to the little subtleties of rugby union, and transition into those. The safe option there would have been to put him into fullback but it is good to see him having a go.’

    All Blacks halfback Piri Weepu, who is helping Marshall learn those subtleties, said this week there were exciting signs from the ex-league star.

    ‘We like to be more square instead of running across the field – I think he's still trying to get used to that,’ Weepu told the New Zealand Herald. ‘As long as he's doing everything he can to learn his trade at 10 or fullback I'm sure he'll go really well. We all hope he does – he's pretty exciting to watch, some of the stuff he does at training, some of the boys look at him and go, “Oh, did he just do that?”.’

    Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/Backpagepix