All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has questioned the Wallabies' selection of Kurtley Beale ahead of Bernard Foley for Saturday.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has questioned the Wallabies' selection of Kurtley Beale ahead of Bernard Foley for Saturday's Test in Sydney.
Hansen said he was “dumbfounded” by Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie's decision and suggested Beale's selection was forced upon his counterpart.
Foley has been in superb form for the Waratahs and his goal-kicking and general play was one of the main reasons that the Sydney-based franchise won this season's Super Rugby title.
He was the Waratahs' first-choice fly-half throughout their campaign while Beale was playing on his outside in the the number 12 jersey for the Sydneysiders.
And Hansen couldn't resist taking a dig at Australia's decision to start with Beale at pivot, suggesting McKenzie might have been told to pick him because he was wanted in the NRL.
Hansen also questioned Beale's goal-kicking and said the Wallabies were putting great pressure on themselves to win back the Bledisloe Cup.
“I was dumbfounded by it a wee bit initially, the selection,” he told Fairfax Media.
“I thought 'why would he do that' and I came to the conclusion that maybe Ewen doesn't trust him [Foley] to do be able to do what he wants against us.
“Or if you really think about it, the other guy [Beale] is under contract and league are chasing him so you might start to think maybe the ARU has told him he's got to pick him.
“At the end of the day it doesn't matter why he has. Both of them are very good rugby players and Kurtley is certainly a guy who loves to do things differently.
“He will throw a lot of inside balls to runners so we're going to have to make sure we look after that part of the park, particularly from second and third phase play when guys are struggling to get into position.
“He'll be dangerous. He's not as good a goalkicker as Foley but I guess he'll bring Foley on late in the game and if they need a goalkicker they've got the right one on at the right end of the game.”
When asked if he would pick a player if the New Zealand Rugby Union told him to, Hansen replied: “No.”
He also said it was an “assumption” from him that McKenzie was following orders to pick Beale.
“One guy has played there all year, the other guy has played seven tests at most in his whole career at first-five, so why would you change that? It was just a thought that came through my head and I'm sure it came through a few other peoples',” added Hansen.
When asked if his side would try to rattle Beale, Hansen replied: “If we're going to win the game we're going to have to rattle a few of them better than they rattle us.
“There's been a lot of talk about because they have won the Super Rugby they will win the Bledisloe Cup but I think that's rubbish. I don't think there's any correlation at all. It's totally different.”