BRISBANE - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has relished stirring the pot ahead of Saturday's Bledisloe Cup opener by claiming the Wallabies have picked Kurtley Beale to keep him out of the clutches of rugby league.
Hansen admitted yesterday he was "dumbfounded" by counterpart Ewen McKenzie's shock selection of Beale at five-eighth ahead of incumbent Bernard Foley for the ANZ Stadium blockbuster.
Chasing a record 18th straight Test win, the New Zealand mentor voiced his assumption that McKenzie was under instructions from the Australian Rugby Union to keep the off-contract star in the code.
Hansen's mind games also extended to questioning Beale's goalkicking ability, especially as his last attempt in the Test arena was the missed match-decider against the British and Irish Lions 14 months ago.
He also denied Beale's inclusion made Australia unpredictable.
"I was dumbfounded by (the selection) a wee bit," Hansen told reporters in Auckland. "I thought 'why would he do that?' and I came to the conclusion that maybe Ewen doesn't trust (Foley) to be able to do what he wants against us.
"Or if you really think about it, the other guy (Beale) is under contract and league are chasing him so you might start to think maybe the ARU has told him he's got to pick him."