RUGBY UNION: LEAVING Wasps at the end of the season was a difficult but correct decision admits Kurtley Beale after confirming he will return home with aspirations of helping Australia win the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
The 28-year-old moved to Wasps on a one-year deal and the Aviva Premiership club had hoped he would remain in Coventry following a series of impressive performances.
Beale admits he came ‘very close’ to agreeing a new contract to keep him at the Ricoh Arena, but following recent conversations with Australia head coach Michael Cheika, the Sydney-born centre feels he could play a central part for his country as they build-up to the Rugby World Cup.
And he feels the best way to fulfil the role outlined to him by Cheika is to end his short stay in England and be back home.
“This has been a really hard decision because of how much I’ve been enjoying my time at Wasps,” said Young.
“I signed a one-year deal from the outset to enable me to keep my options open. I came very close to agreeing a new contract with Wasps, but I believe to achieve my international rugby aspirations I need to be back home in Australia.
“To be able to wear the Wallaby jersey again would be the greatest privilege and at this stage of my career I want to give myself the best opportunity of representing Australia in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“The vision Cheik (Michael Cheika) has for the Wallabies is really exciting and is something I really want to be part of and contribute to.”
Despite missing much of the season through injury, Beale has played a key role in helping Wasps cement their position five points clear at the top of the Aviva Premiership.
Wasps are also gearing up for a European Champions Cup quarter-final clash against Leinster and Beale is looking forward to playing a big part in what he hopes will be a successful run-in.
Beale continued: “The squad, coaches, medical team and fans have been brilliant towards me since I arrived and I will always appreciate how they supported me through the injury rehab and gave me time to get my confidence back on the field.
“I believe I have grown as a player and person during my experience here. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with these great lads and I’m loving being part of this group and am excited to see what we can achieve this season. With the squad Wasps have, I’m sure they will also be successful over the coming seasons.
“Wasps have been going really well this season and I will be putting everything I have into helping the squad stay top of the table and fulfil our potential this year.
“Hopefully Wasps’ fans will appreciate my reasons for returning home and how important representing my country is to me. This experience at Wasps is something I will never forget.”
Wasps director of rugby Dai Young understood Beale’s reasons for leaving and knows a player of his ‘world class’ ability will be difficult to replace both on and off the pitch.
He added: “Kurtley is a proud Australian, who quite rightly wants to represent his country, and neither I nor the club would ever discourage a player from playing international rugby, so we fully understand why he would want to return.
“When Kurtley signed, the idea was it would be for one year, similar to the deals that George Smith and Charles Piutau signed with the club last season, and during that time he would see how he settled in the UK.
“Because of how much Kurtley was enjoying it here and we were enjoying having him, we opened discussions about extending his stay.
“Until last week, we were relatively confident he would put pen to paper for another year. However, I know he and Michael Cheika have spoken recently and Kurtley feels he has an important role to play in the Wallabies’ set-up, leading up to the World Cup.
“For the rest of the season, I have no doubt that he will put all his efforts into finishing on a high with Wasps and showing everyone in the Northern Hemisphere what he can do.
“I’ve been really impressed with his professionalism and team focus since arriving and I’m sure he will want to achieve something in black and gold before returning home.
“We’re in a very good position at this stage of the season, sitting top of the Aviva Premiership and with a European Quarter Final to look forward to.”
“It goes without saying, there also aren’t many Kurtley Beale’s available in world rugby! In my mind, just like with George (Smith) and Charles (Piutau) last season, it’s a year we wouldn’t have changed, where our young players will have learned so much from Kurtley’s experience and skill-set, so it will have been a very worthwhile exercise.”