NSW coach Michael Cheika has hailed the performance of playmaking duo Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale but believes neither player will wear the No 10 jersey against France next month.
Cheika said Beale had made a sacrifice for the good of the Waratahs by throwing himself into life at inside-centre and said the positional change would "probably hurt him further up the chain".
With Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie pondering his back-line options without Quade Cooper, Foley and Beale's assured performances in the Waratahs' 41-13 victory over the Lions have given Test selectors further food for thought.
But Cheika said he believed McKenzie would revert to Brumbies five-eighth Matt Toomua, who started last year's Rugby Championship at No 10 before switching to inside-centre for the remainder of his Test season.
"I think they'll probably pick Matt Toomua," Cheika said.
"Both Bernard and Kurtley can do the job there as well if necessary ... Kurtley has made a major sacrifice because he's playing for us where we want him to play and that's probably hindering his chances to play [at five-eighth for the Wallabies]."
Toomua and Cooper formed a match-winning partnership on the Wallabies spring tour until the Brumbies No.10 was forced to head home with a hamstring injury.
But Beale was the Waratahs' five-eighth under Ewen McKenzie before starting most of his Test rugby at fullback under Robbie Deans.
McKenzie will have watched Beale's road back from a tumultuous and injury-interrupted two years with interest.
In the meantime, Foley has emerged as an increasingly mature playmaker, while Toomua's partner in Canberra, Christian Leali'ifano, used the end of the spring tour to stake a claim for starting honours.
"There's good depth there so that's a good situation to have," Cheika said of the choices facing a Cooper-less Wallabies in the lead-up to the three-Test series against France next month.
Beale has previously admitted his move to the midfield had been challenging, despite the Waratahs' positional fluidity.
Cheika said he respected his versatile No 12 for his commitment to the team.
"You can't make a player play where he doesn't want to play because he'll only play poorly," he said.
"There's not many teams playing with that first and second five-eighth concept, and I respect that because it could hurt [Beale] further up the chain."
The Waratahs moved to within a point of Australian conference leaders the Brumbies on Sunday but face a short turnaround before their flight to Melbourne to play the Rebels for a second time.
Cheika indicated the side would not be looking past the June Test break.
"Close is not good enough. You can only talk about it when you've done something," he said.
"[There are] five games to navigate and get through but I was happy with [the win], and we now have a very, very big match on Friday. A short turnaround, a very good opponent, they're going to attack us hard at the breakdown in defence, and we're going to have to be ready for that."
- Fairfax Media
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