Australia arrive at the 2015 Rugby World Cup with the tag as perhaps the most dangerous side in the tournament.
An unimpressive few years in the Rugby Championship was ended in style this summer when Michael Cheika’s men took the crown, beating the All Blacks along the way.
They got stuffed by the New Zealanders a week later in a Bledisloe Cup rubber, but they did enough with wins over South Africa, Argentina and their trans-Tasman neighbours to alert the world that they can beat anyone on their day.
Much work has been done to strengthen their traditionally weak scrum, and behind the pack they have a range of threats to do damage to any defence.
Their starting back line is highly likely to include the returning Matt Giteau in the midfield, whose subtle touches and eye for an opening mark him out as one of the best in his position.
Behind him is the hugely talented Israel Folau, who can break a game open with his power and pace and commands everything in the air.
But while both men are undoubted world-class performers, to find the Wallabies’ X-factor, you have to turn your attention to their supporting cast.
Michael Cheika has taken the gamble Stuart Lancaster decided against in selecting his one true maverick for the tournament.
While Danny Cipriani gets back into club life at Sale, the equally mercurial Kurtley Beale will be playing a part for his country at the big show.
The utility man can play No. 10, No. 12, or No. 15, and as an option off the bench, he has the fast feet and game intelligence to open teams up in a heartbeat.
Beale’s past is similarly to that of Cipriani, but it has not stopped the Australian coaches placing their faith in the Waratahs man when it comes to providing an extra dimension to their attack.
The presence of Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley, Giteau and Matt Toomua as options at fly-half and inside centre, and the iron grip Israel Folau has on the No. 15 jersey, will restrict Beale to a cameo role in the big games, and he is well suited to this role.
His last eight appearances—prior to a start at No. 15 in the weekend’s game against the USA—have all been off the bench.
A player with his deadly sidestep and pace off the mark is a horrible prospect for leggy defenders to have to deal with late in a game, and the fact that he can pop up anywhere along the three-quarter line is a rare commodity in any of the 20 World Cup squads, as AAP highlighted (via SBS):
Beale proved his value while filling in at fullback for the rested two-time reigning John Eales Medallist Israel Folau.
While Folau has a mortgage on the 15 jersey Beale wore at the 2011 World Cup, his ability to keep up his stellar play when moving to inside centre against the Eagles showcased his supreme utility value and likely cemented his place for the Cup.
He's no slouch anywhere from 10 to 15 in the backline.
The player seems to have put his off-field woes behind him after he was dropped last year for his part in what became known as "text-gate," and he has re-signed with the Australian Rugby Union, putting to bed rumours of a switch to rugby league.
He is also, as reported by the Courier Mail's Mike Coleman, looking the fittest and happiest he has for quite some time:
He bounds out of the Wallabies dressing room like Superman exiting a phonebox. He looks so fit it’s almost embarrassing, and answers every question with a smile.
In shape, contented, showing good form and motivated to atone for missing the 2011 semi-final defeat to New Zealand, Kurtley Beale is a man on a mission at the 2015 World Cup.