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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Super Rugby strugglers Melbourne Rebels will not have the services of Australia back Kurtley Beale for at least another three weeks as he works through a programme to deal with his alcohol-related issues, the club's incoming CEO has said.
The Rebels, second-last in the 15-team southern hemisphere competition, have two wins from their eight matches as the season approaches the halfway mark, with Beale on the sidelines after being stood down indefinitely for his part in a boozy punch-up with team mates last month.
Rob Clarke, who is set to replace the outgoing Steve Boland on an interim basis while the club finds a permanent CEO, poured cold water on fans' hopes the versatile 24-year-old might be reinstated quickly.
"The program in which Kurtley is involved has another three weeks to run, at which point a professional assessment of his situation will be made," Clarke said in comments published by The Australian newspaper on Thursday.
"That program has to follow its course and Kurtley won't be playing until it does."
Beale, Australia's first-choice flyhalf during their season-ending tour of Europe last year, was sent home from South Africa last month after punching the Rebels' Welsh captain Gareth Delve and team mate Cooper Vuna on the team bus following the side's record 64-7 flogging by the Durban-based Sharks.
He was also slapped with a 'substantial' fine by the Australian Rugby Union, and left out of a Wallabies planning camp last weekend by coach Robbie Deans for the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour.
The extended absence from Super Rugby may hurt Beale's chances of adding to his 32 Wallabies' caps for the Lions tests in June and July, cutting his time to impress Deans with his form in Super Rugby.
Deans is set to name a preliminary 25-man squad on May 19, but will add a further six players when the Super Rugby season pauses for the international break in June.
Beale has previously been in hot water for fighting, and was charged with assault following a clash with a bouncer outside a Brisbane bar last year, but the charge was dropped after an out-of-court settlement, police said this week.
The Rebels have a bye this week before a tough assignment against the seven-time champion Crusaders in Christchurch.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)