Nineteen-year-old sensation Jordan Petaia is set to become Australia’s youngest Rugby World Cup player after he got the nod on Wednesday for this weekend’s game against Uruguay.
Petaia was named on the left wing for his first cap on Saturday, after injuries wrecked his Super Rugby season with the Queensland Reds and delayed his international debut.
The Wallabies are coming off a stinging 29-25 defeat by Wales which left them odds-on to finish runners-up to the Six Nations champions in Pool D.
Coach Michael Cheika said he was sure the 190-cm Petaia was ready to make his debut despite his limited playing time this year.
“It’s pretty exciting. He got pretty close to getting his cap on the last spring tour and he’s looking good in training so it’s going to be a great opportunity,” Cheika said.
“There’s not many guys that get to make their debut in a World Cup so he’s blessed with the opportunity. I know he’s a fine young man and he’ll take the opportunity with both hands for sure.”
Petaia was named in Australia’s team to play Italy last November before being ruled out with a hamstring injury, and then suffered a similar problem before Australia’s warm-up test against Samoa last month.
“He’s got a lot of talent, Jordan, and we’ll see it for the first time. This will be the first game I’ve ever been involved in with him,” said Cheika.
“At the same time, he’s just starting out so we’ll let him get into the flow and see how he feels. He’s got a couple of very experienced campaigners next to him in Dane (Haylett-Petty) and Kurtley (Beale).”
The teenager, the first Australian to make his test debut at a World Cup since Berrick Barnes in 2007, said he was anxious about getting injured again before Saturday’s game.
“I’ll just try and get through the week first — I don’t want to jinx it,” he said. “I’m just going to get to that game on Saturday and see what happens from there.”
“I’m excited and just keen to get on,” Petaia added.
Matt To’omua, who starred at flyhalf as a replacement against Wales, will earn his 50th cap as he shifts to inside center in partnership with Tevita Kuridrani.
Nic White and Christian Lealiifano were preferred as Australia’s ever-evolving half-back combination, while Haylett-Petty shifts to the right wing and Beale starts at fullback.
Captain Michael Hooper is one of only two players retained in the pack along with Allan Alaalatoa as Cheika rotated 12 players in his starting XV.
“Many of these guys have been starting players for us over the last three or four years. Everybody’s got to play their part on this trip and this is the opportunity for some of those guys,” Cheika said.