Beale eager to face All Blacks in indigenous green and gold
SYDNEY, July 17 (Reuters) - Wallabies back Kurtley Beale is hoping to play some part in next month's back-to-back tests against New Zealand at the start of the Rugby Championship even if he is still on the comeback trail after injury.
Beale made his first public appearance on home soil on Monday since returning from a season-long spell at English club Wasps, where he suffered a hamstring injury in the Premiership semi-finals.
The 28-year-old last played for his country against the All Blacks in the 2015 World Cup final -- a knee injury prevented him from playing any tests last year -- and is keen to get back into action against New Zealand in the Bledisloe Cup series.
"I'm still in rehab, I still think I've got to get my knee, my leg, (sorted out), I've lost a lot of muscle in that leg and it's a bit of a slow process getting it back," he told reporters.
"But I don't mind, I think I've played enough rugby now to get back out there when I'm ready. Obviously it's up to the selectors but I'll be putting my best foot forward, that's for sure."
Beale was speaking at the launch of a specially designed shirt which Australia will wear in the third Bledisloe Cup contest against the All Blacks to honour the contribution of indigenous Wallabies.
One of 14 indigenous Australians to have worn the green and gold, Beale was moved to tears when presenting the jersey and said it would be "unbelievable" to wear it in Brisbane on Oct 21.
"You don't understand how important it is for myself and the other indigenous players past and present to stand up and be role models for young indigenous kids out there who are aspiring to be professional athletes," he said.
"It's something that I hold close to my heart and I think it's a great step forward."
First, however, come the two Rugby Championship fixtures against the world champions in August, matches that on recent form the Wallabies have little to no chance of winning.
It is perhaps a telling sign of the wretched state of Australian rugby that there is so much excitement about the return of a player who has not been a regular first-choice test starter for three years.
His versatility means Beale could slot in anywhere in the backline but he said he would be looking to take up the second playmaker role at inside centre that he filled off the bench at the 2015 World Cup.
"I think just having the opportunity to be involved in the 23 would be awesome but I'll definitely be putting my foot forward for that number 12 jersey," he said. (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O'Brien)