Kurtley Beale is reportedly set to sign a two-year deal with English Premiership club London Wasps, which could make him the third highest player in rugby union.
The $1.3 million deal, which is unlikely to be matched by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), would put the Waratahs and Wallabies inside centre behind only fellow Aussie Matt Giteau and New Zealand star Dan Carter in terms of salary.
It will be a big loss for NSW, where the 27-year-old’s versatility has allowed him to fill in for the injured Bernard Foley at No. 10 so far this season. Importantly, Beale would still be available for Wallabies selection given he has played 60 tests for Australia.
Beale played a pivotal role in the Wallabies run to the 2015 World Cup final, filling in at a number of positions. Former Waratahs captain Phil Waugh believes that versatility makes him an asset to overseas clubs.
“He showed he could come on the wing, at fullback, play 12, step in first receiver and kick goals,” he said. “If you are a talent scout for an overseas club, and you watch Kurtley play everywhere and do it well, that makes him a hugely attractive player.”
Beale, who has a troubled disciplinary record, last moved away from NSW in 2012 to join the Melbourne Rebels, where he was suspended twice for alcohol related issues including punching captain Gareth Delve.
Recent remarks by the Wasps’ director of rugby Dai Young about high-profile player recruitment were widely interpreted to be a reference to signing Beale.
“You certainly don’t want to bring anyone into this environment who’s going to upset the apple cart with the player.” Young said.
“But I’m confident anybody I bring into this environment I’ve done my homework on… What they’ve done in the past is the past.”
The ARU are also expecting to lose David Pocock for a possible stint in England after being offered an even bigger deal by the Wasps. – Andrew Cullen
Photo of Kurtley Beale by Matt King from the Waratahs’ official Facebook Page.