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Rugby Championship
McKenzie won't consider 'court of public opinion'
August 18, 2014
Australia 12-12 New Zealand (Australia only)

Kurtley Beale is more hoping than expecting to retain Australia's No.10 jumper for the Bledisloe Cup return bout in Auckland after producing a mixed bag in the Rugby Championship opener in Sydney.

Beale's four penalty goals from five attempts ultimately earned Australia a 12-12 draw against the world champion All Blacks at ANZ Stadium. But he also threw several wayward passes in the steady rain, including an intercept, and conceded a vital penalty for not releasing the ball with the Wallabies deep on attack midway through the first half.

While safe under the high ball, Beale came in for plenty of special attention from New Zealand and he was lucky they didn't score after dispossessing him in a heavy tackle after he soared to take a bomb in the opening minutes.

Australia's Kurtley Beale is wrapped up by the New Zealand defence, Australia v New Zealand, The Rugby Championship, ANZ Stadium, Sydney, August 16, 2014
Australia's Kurtley Beale is wrapped up by the New Zealand defence © Getty Images
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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said pre-match that he was "dumfounded" that his Wallabies counterpart had opted for Beale to start his first Test at five-eighth in almost two years instead of sticking with incumbent Bernard Foley. Ewen McKenzie, though, said he wasn't unhappy with Beale's performance - despite declining to guarantee the mercurial playmaker a start at Eden Park.

"I thought he was trying to make things happen, which is what we wanted, and he goal-kicked at 80%," McKenzie said. "It wasn't ideal conditions. It doesn't matter who you would have played, it was a difficult game. We could have reverted, just played a field-position game I suppose, but that's not what we want to be about."

Asked directly if Beale had done enough to keep his spot, McKenzie said he hadn't yet thought about it.

"There's a lot of guys battered and bruised in the dressing-room, to be honest. We might be both fielding different teams."

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw best summed up the night for the playmakers. "With the greasy conditions, it was almost easier when you didn't have the ball because handling was tough," McCaw said.

After playing outside Foley at inside centre throughout New South Wales Waratahs' triumphant Super Rugby campaign, Beale said he felt "pretty good" back at five-eighth for the first time this year.

"I don't want to be talking about the conditions but obviously you've got to adapt, you've got to change and approach it differently," he said. "I'm very fortunate to have a really good full pack in front of me, and some really elusive backs outside me to help me get around the park; those guys made my job a lot easier tonight."

We didn't take our chances - McKenzie
%]

Asked if he thought he'd secured his position for next Saturday, Beale said: "Probably not".

"Obviously Bernie came on, him and Nick Phipps came on and really turned it up for the boys in the end. I thought we were going to come away with the win. I think all positions are still up for grabs."

McKenzie insisted he would quite literally "pore over" over replays of the match before considering his selections for the match in Auckland. He is scheduled to name his team on Tuesday, and he said on Sunday that he wouldn't be influenced by the "the court of public opinion".

"The more changes you make, the more combinations you put at risk," McKenzie said. "We've been working for a couple of weeks now and changes we make will be based on the tactical side of it, because the injury side of it looks OK. I theorise about selections from the moment the game finishes, but if I fielded the team that I picked straight after the game it would be very different to the one that actually takes the field. So you have to remove the emotion and look at it."

© AAP

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