TOKYO — AHEAD of his all-star matchup with Sonny Bill Williams, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has given Kurtley Beale the ultimate accolade, labelling his playmaker one of the most courageous players he’s come across.
On Saturday, Beale will once again have the almighty task of trying to shut down Williams, the All Blacks’ dual international, who will be running out for his 50th cap in Saturday’s third Bledisloe fixture of the year in Yokohama.
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On the surface, it’s a physical mismatch.
Beale gives away almost 20kg to the towering Williams, who is built like a brick and heavier than most backrow forwards, hitting the scales at 108kg.
And making Williams all the more difficult to stop is an offloading ability that most Australians can only dream of.
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Throw into the mix that Beale will have a new midfield partner outside him in Israel Folau, and the task is made doubly difficult.
But Cheika isn’t concerned and is backing his experienced playmaker to once again stand up in defence — as he did so memorably in Dunedin last year, jolting Williams with several courageous tackles.
“When Williams gets going and he can get his arms free, he’s pretty difficult to stop,” Cheika admitted.
“But I think they’ll be challenging the little blokes more than Izzy (Folau), and I back Beale.
“He’s one of the most courageous players I’ve seen play rugby.
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“He’s not a big guy and he puts his body about because he loves playing for Australia and he loves these matches.
“I’m sure when he’s presented with the challenge in going up against Williams, both himself and (Bernard) Foley — I know they’re little blokes — but they’ll be putting their bodies on the line because they do it every time.”
Saturday will be Williams’ first Bledisloe Test of the year, after missing the two earlier fixtures due to injury.