Kurtley Beale loves playing Wales.
“They bring out the best of you,” he says.
He’s not wrong.
Beale can’t wait to be in the backfield when Australia faces Wales in another one of their pool deciders at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday in Tokyo.
“The battles are always epic,” he says of their contests, and he’s been a big part of making them epic in the last decade.
Beale made his test debut against Wales in 2009 in Cardiff, replacing Drew Mitchell for the last 10 minutes of a routine 33-12 win.
The next year he scored a try against Wales from a James O’Connor offload and almost finished a brilliant solo second try. He beat Mike Phillips to an up and under, followed it with a grubber that panicked the Welsh, and was dribbling the ball to the tryline until he lost it when James Hook covered him.
Beale won a Rugby World Cup bronze medal at Wales’ expense in 2011 in Auckland, and the next year he scored all of the points against Wales, including the match-winning try with 26 seconds left for Australia to triumph 14-12.
He replaced Mitchell again to help the Wallabies pull off a mighty defensive effort to beat Wales at Twickenham in a 2015 World Cup pool game, and scored his third try against Wales in a more comfortable win in 2017.
“They got us last year,” he says on Wednesday. Indeed, that was his first loss to Wales in eight matches.
Beale is sure to receive a lot of ball coming down on him, more than Fiji gave him last Saturday in the Wallabies’ tournament-opening comeback win in Sapporo.
“We are well aware of (Dan Biggar’s expected aerial assault),” he says. “It’s a matter of making sure we are prepped, getting through a lot of reps at training.
“In saying that, Wales have got a really good backline to run the ball, Jonathan Davies, (Leigh) Halfpenny, (Liam) Williams, he’s class. A lot of threats.”
But he believes defense will decide the likely fate of the winner of Pool D.
“Their defense has gone up another level (in recent years),” Beale says. “It’s going to be a little bit harder to crack. It places more importance on holding on to the ball, building pressure, and hopefully matching them with fitness. It’s always going to go down to the wire. We are prepared for that.”
“The World Cup is a different beast, the pressures and intensity,” he adds. “It’s the team which handles that.”
Beale is a different beast, too, when he’s facing Wales.
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