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Beale's homecoming a boost for Waratahs

NZN 9/03/2017 Darren Walton

Skipper Michael Hooper admits Kurtley Beale's impending homecoming has given the NSW Waratahs a huge boost ahead of their Super Rugby showdown with the Sharks in Durban.

Deflated after leaking 55 points in an eight-try drubbing at the hands of the Lions, the Waratahs awoke to the news on Friday that Beale would return to Sydney after just one season with Wasps in the English premiership.

While coach Daryl Gibson has all but ruled out calling on Beale for the Waratahs' last two games of the regular season, on his return in May, Hooper says simply having the Wallabies star back in camp will be priceless for morale.

"He's a huge part on and off the field for us as players so we're really excited to hear that news and to be involved with him going forward," Hooper said.

"It will be interesting to see what knowledge he has learnt from overseas and from European rugby, that different style and everything.

"So he could come back with a wealth of knowledge. But I just think the intensity that he'll bring back and the desire to play will be huge.

"He's had a taste of overseas rugby ... and then to have a choice to make and to make that choice to come back, he'll be so excited about the opportunity."

As a 60-Test veteran, Beale could have opted for another $1.5 million season with Wasps while still being eligible to play for the Wallabies under the Giteau Law.

Gibson said the playmaker's decision to shun European riches to chase his dream back home with the Wallabies was "more a vote for the international game and the Australian jersey".

"And I think that's wonderful," Gibson said.

"We saw a similar story in New Zealand with Ben Smith and Israel Dagg turning down big offers to remain and be part of a legacy and I think that's an important thing."

Beale's announcement came after imposing Waratahs lock Will Skelton was ruled out of Sunday morning's clash with the Sharks.

Skelton has yet to fully recover from a hamstring strain, but Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps returns from an ankle injury after missing the 55-36 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg.

Former Shark David McDuling will start as cover for Skelton in what the Waratahs expect will be a torrid affair at Kings Park.

The Sharks are home for the first time this season after opening with a promising two-game stint in Australia, falling 28-26 to Queensland and then beating the Brumbies 27-22 on the bell.

"Both in their first two rounds this year, their games have gone to the death so we know it's going to be a tough 80-minute game," Hooper said.

"Their first game at home so we're expecting them to bring a lot of fire. They've got the big carriers like the classic South African teams; got pace out wide like a lot of South African teams again.

"So we've been preparing for a very tough game."

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