Rugby Real or Not: Kurtley Beale's return makes him fullback frontrunner

With Super Rugby Pacific underway, and the Six Nations set to resume after a week off, there is plenty happening across the rugby world.

The Wallabies are trying to manage their playing list; the game's laws are again in the spotlight; and a report that the Springboks were set to join the Six Nations from 2025 sent social media into a spin.

We discuss that and more in the maiden edition of Rugby Real or Not.

Beale in the box seat for Wallabies fullback role

Not real. Don't get me wrong, Kurtley Beale will be at the World Cup in France, and he'll no doubt play an instrumental role -- on the field or off -- but at 33 and with the growing depth of fullback options, he'll have to fight tooth and nail for that No.15 jersey.

Sent an SOS from Wallabies coach Dave Rennie last year during the Wallabies' UK tour, Beale showed glimpses of what he could produce when he came off the bench against Scotland and again when he started against England and Wales, but he certainly didn't blow it out of the park.

We must remember, Beale's last minute call-up came off the back of the multiple injuries that left the squad shorthanded. The depth in the fullback ranks is growing; if all fit, Rennie will have the likes of first choice No.15 Tom Banks, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia, James O'Connor and even Andrew Kellaway, who had a breakout season in 2021 and could rightfully make the switch into 15, to call upon.

Meanwhile, Reds coach Brad Thorn also gave Jock Campbell special praise for his effort against the Rebels in the opening round of Super Rugby Pacific, comparing him to league great Darren Lockyer and All Blacks ace Ben Smith.

Beale's leadership skills will be paramount for the team, and his ability to play across the backline will gain him his spot in the squad, but it's time the Wallabies reward their young players especially Banks who's made the No.15 jersey his own over the past two years.

- Brittany Mitchell

Pita-Gus Sowakula's 'hurdle' should be illegal

Real. This is a tough one, particularly given the viral social media highlight Sowakula generated [which rugby sorely needs more of]. But, given the way the law is written around tackling players in the air, the only interpretation is that attacking players shouldn't be allowed to 'hurdle' defenders just as Sowakula did Aaron Smith in Queenstown on Saturday.

If you think back to the dramatic second Test between the British & Irish Lions and All Blacks in Wellington in 2017, you might recall an incident in which Charlie Faumuina tackled Kyle Sinckler in the air as the Lions prop jumped to catch a high pass. Faumuina had no choice but to tackle Sinckler as the prop was virtually on the gainline, and he would have conceded valuable momentum if he'd let Sinckler catch the pass untouched.

Faumuina was penalised and Owen Farrell kicked a vital three points moments later as a result, and the Lions went on to win the Test.

The problem with Sowakula's hurdle effort -- as superb as it was -- is that the attacker can't have the best of both worlds. Ball-carriers/catchers can't expect to have the protection of not being able to be tackled while off the ground, and then also retain the right to jump into the air to avoid a defender.

The other issue is that Aaron Smith was doing exactly what World Rugby wants players to do by aiming to tackle around the legs. Sowakula's sudden change in body position could have resulted in Smith catching a knee straight to the head, which would have put the scrum-half at risk of a potential concussion.

I think we can all appreciate Sowakula's athleticism, but allowing such a move to go unpunished -- or at least not be specifically written into the laws -- would open up a can of worms for World Rugby.

- Sam Bruce

That's the last we'll hear about the Springboks in the Six Nations

Not real. Let's be honest, while Six Nations officials deny they have plans to admit the Springboks to the tournament, this story will rear its head again and again over the next few years, especially with the continued tension between SANZAAR unions.

South Africa have made no secret about wanting to ditch the Southern Hemisphere competition and make a move up north, and with the Rugby Championship only confirmed until 2025 speculation will remain rife for years to come.

Tension between the unions has been mounting ever since New Zealand Rugby first began making moves to re-imagine Super Rugby, at least in its corner of the world, virtually casting South Africa aside in the process. That opened up the opportunity for South Africa to take their teams to the United Rugby Championship, and with COVID's impact on the international game, there'll be discussions well into the future of what competitions could look like.

While there was extreme backlash up north following the reports, member nations will no doubt be thinking of the money the Springboks could draw in. Their inclusion would mean a stronger competition and more broadcast dollars, unfortunately it would also come at the expense of Italy -- according to the Daily Mail report at least -- and all the progress they've made growing the game.

It'd also be a massive blow to the Rugby Championship. As it is, it's been hanging on by a thread over the past two years. South Africa dropped out of the competition entirely in 2020, while Argentina didn't play a single game at home over 24 months. The loss of the Springboks, while opening the door for the likes of Japan and Fiji, would shake up World Rugby completely.

There's no doubt the power games will continue well into the future, while discussions about the Nations Championship may prove to be the determining factor in the long run. If that tournament can garner enough support, it could be the uniting element World Rugby desperately needs.

- Brittany Mitchell