NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is a lot more optimistic about fending off rugby league’s interest in his playmaking star Kurtley Beale than he was a month ago.
Cheika is confident Australia’s latest mauling by the All Blacks last Saturday won’t push Beale towards league, with his Waratahs and Australian Rugby Union (ARU) contract expiring at the end of this year.
Beale played a major role at inside centre in the Waratahs’ first Super Rugby title win.
He earned a Wallabies starting spot at five-eighth in the two Bledisloe Cup matches after coming off the bench for all three Tests against France in June.
The mercurial 44-Test back has never entirely ruled out switching to league, but Cheika is encouraged by what he has heard from the player.
“It looks like it’s going better so, hopefully, something is going to happen in the next week or two,” Cheika said.
“It’s being done with the ARU, but I’m hearing it from Kurtley so, hopefully, it will all work out.”
Cheika said there was still probably serious interest in 25-year-old Beale from rugby league.
But he hoped the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the Waratahs’ 2014 success would keep the gifted back in the 15-a-side code.
“I’m not taking it for granted because it never is until it’s signed, sealed and delivered,” Cheika said.
“But I’m a lot more positive now than I was about a month or so ago.”
Cheika said NSW still had four to five spots left on their 2015 roster.
His main recruitment priority is finding a replacement for Test lock Kane Douglas after his move to Irish side Leinster, a team Cheika used to coach.
“The squad is going to remain relatively constant apart from a bit of youth and maybe one or two surprises,” Cheika said.
He was looking for new Wallabies lock Will Skelton to step up and claim a starting spot after primarily being used off the bench this year. Cheika also needs to find a couple of outside backs with Alofa Alofa and Cam Crawford moving on.
He has already identified highly rated Australian under-20 winger Andrew Kellaway as a potential recruit.
Cheika revealed he was also looking at rugby league backs who had a union background, like Alofa did.
He said the Waratahs were likely to offer new contracts to back-rower Stephen Holies, prop Jeremy Tilse and halfback Brendan McKibbin.