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Beale has chance to go from zero to hero for Aussies

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BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 20:  Kurtley Beale passes the ball during an Australian Wallabies training session at Ballymore Stadium on June 20, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 20: Kurtley Beale passes the ball during an Australian Wallabies training session at Ballymore Stadium on June 20, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 20: Kurtley Beale passes the ball during an Australian Wallabies training session at Ballymore Stadium on June 20, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Australia coach Robbie Deans is right to throw Kurtley Beale into the first British and Irish Lions Test despite his personal problems, according to Andrew Walker, whose own international career derailed after he helped the Wallabies win the 2001 series.

Dual international Walker, who scored a try from the wing during the first Test in 2001, which the Lions won, is thrilled the utility back has a place on the bench for today's match at Lang Park, following his battles with alcohol issues and a stint at a health clinic.

"It's great for him to get back there," Walker, capped seven times for the Wallabies, said.

"There may be some people who don't want him to play but, because it's the Wallabies, he'll stand up because he's playing with some great players as well.

"He's got an opportunity to really turn things around and if he comes out of it like a hero, everyone's going to love him again.

"It's important for him, not to prove everyone wrong but just to prove himself right. To know that he's one of the best in the world."

Beale, 24, has played scarcely more than half an hour of senior rugby in nearly four months after struggling with a hand injury and a string of alcohol-related incidents.

He was stood down by his Super Rugby side Melbourne Rebels in March for more than a month after punching former Welsh international Gareth Delve and another team-mate in a boozy incident on a team bus in South Africa.

Days after his return to the side, he was stood down again indefinitely for breaking the terms of his rehabilitation, including being found drinking at a social function with team-mates.

Beale promptly checked himself into a private health clinic and resumed training with the Wallabies earlier this month while he continued an off-field health programme.

As an indigenous Australian player who struggled with alcohol and drugs throughout a roller-coaster career, Walker can identify with Beale's off-field battles.

Born one of 13 in a small coastal town south of Sydney, Walker represented Australia in rugby league before union.

 

DISAPPEARING

But his Wallabies career was cut short in 2001 after seven Tests when the team grew tired of him disappearing to go on long drinking sessions.

Will Genia, meanwhile, has urged Australia to build a commanding position in their Test series against the Lions by extending their proud record at Suncorp Stadium.

The Wallabies have lost just twice in 19 matches since 1996 at the ground which hosts today's international, on both occasions to the All Blacks.

Queensland Reds scrum-half Genia said: "We've all spoken about how the Suncorp Stadium is a special place for the Wallabies to play. We take every bit of confidence playing there.

"If we can win well, it gives us a good feeling going into the rest of the series."

Genia will act as the Wallabies' main playmaker with James O'Connor featuring in only his second Test at fly-half. The 25-year-old hopes the first Lions Test in Australia for 12 years will produce an entertaining spectacle.

"I expect the Lions to play an expansive game and, weather permitting, the ball will get thrown around," said Genia.


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