Deans facing selection dilemma
Australia coach Robbie Deans admits his side's strength in depth has made picking a team for the visit of Wales and Scotland one of the hardest tasks of his tenure.
Star backs James O'Connor and Quade Cooper are yet to return from injury, but the Wallabies have no shortage of world-class players to fill the gaps. Will Genia, Kurtley Beale and Digby Ioane are all capable of lighting up the backline, while captain James Horwill and elite flanker David Pocock set the tone for a much-improved group of forwards.
"In terms of the team itself, it's a tough selection," Deans said. "And it's the toughest selection I've had to do on my watch. We've now got competition for positions and that's good from our perspective."
The Wallabies begin their 2012 international season with a Test against Scotland in Newcastle on June 5, before three eagerly anticipated clashes with Six Nations champions Wales.
"Out of necessity we won't be able to play the same playing group in that first week when we've got two Test matches," added Deans.
"Test match rugby is distinct from Super Rugby. It's intense, it's brutal, so we will have to - and this is where our depth is an advantage - we will have to incorporate more than just a team of 22.
"But we will also be seeking continuity, because that will be advantageous for us."
Nominally deployed at full-back, Beale has impressed standing in for O'Connor at fly-half with club side Melbourne Rebels in recent weeks.
And his performances look to have earned him the right to contend for the five-eighth role at international level.
"Kurtley's done very well, he's thrived as we would expect," Deans said. "He's got history in that position, he's a very capable player, he's enjoyed the responsibility. I think he found the work-rate quite tough initially, but he's embraced that task and he's an option for us as well. It's fantastic from the Wallabies' perspective."