Wallabies suffer Beale blow

Kurtley Beale (Gallo Images)
Kurtley Beale (Gallo Images)

Auckland - Australia fullback Kurtley Beale has lost his race to be fit for Sunday's Rugby World Cup semifinal against New Zealand.

Beale, 22, who has been battling a hamstring injury, withdrew prior to Saturday's final captain's run at North Harbour Stadium, a team spokesman said.

"While Beale did later take part in some of the drills, he was still unable to stride out confidently enough, having earlier made the decision with coach Robbie Deans and the team's medical staff he wasn't ready to play," the spokesman said.

In a reshuffle, Adam Ashley-Cooper moved to full-back with Anthony Fainga'a coming in as outside-centre, while outside back Rob Horne was confirmed on the replacements' bench for the crunch match at Auckland's Eden Park.

"It's disappointing but is an outcome we'd catered for through our preparation this week," Deans said.

"We always anticipated it would be unlikely that Kurtley would be ready, but we wanted to give him every opportunity to make it. Unfortunately, time has run out.

"It was important for the clarity of the preparation, both for the team and for Kurtley, that we made the decision today (Saturday)."

Beale said he was backing his team-mates to beat the All Blacks without him.

"It's going to be tough watching it from the sidelines, I can't deny that, but it's about the team, not me," Beale said.

"We've tried, and the medical staff have done a great job, but it's best for the team that I miss this one," the 23-times capped Beale, an exciting broken-field runner, added.

"I'm not far away and will hopefully be ready to go next week. I'm backing the boys to do the job in my absence. Everyone's really excited and looking forward to the game."

Shortly before the team spokesman confirmed he'd miss Sunday's match, Beale told social networking site Twitter: "Thanks everyone for their support. Unfortunately been ruled out (sic).

"I've got faith in the boys who have got the opportunity."

Australia captain James Horwill said the team could cope with Beale's absence.

"We've trained all week without him there, so we were fully prepared for him not to play," Horwill said Saturday.

Beale has twice left the field with the same hamstring strain during this tournament, going off 38 minutes into a pool match against the United States.

He was then rested from Australia's final pool match against Russia before returning in the 11-9 quarter-final win over defending champions South Africa, only to leave the field six minutes from the end of last Sunday's gruelling clash in Wellington.

Twice World Cup champions Australia are bidding for their fourth final appearance against either Wales or France, who play in Saturday's first semi-final at Eden Park.

Revised Australia team (15-1):

Adam Ashley-Cooper; James O'Connor, Anthony Fainga'a, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Radike Samo, David Pocock, Rocky Elsom; James Horwill (capt), Dan Vickerman; Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu

Replacements: Tatafu Polota Nau, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Ben McCalman, Luke Burgess, Berrick Barnes, Rob Horne

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