Petaia gets his test debut for Australia at Rugby World Cup
OITA, Japan (AP) — Teenager Jordan Petaia will make his test debut at the Rugby World Cup after being selected among 13 changes to Australia's starting lineup for Saturday's Pool D game against Uruguay.
"There's not that many guys that get to make their debut in a World Cup, so he is blessed with the opportunity," Australia's head coach Michael Cheika said of the 19-year-old Petaia.
Petaia will start on the left wing, becoming the first Wallaby to make his test debut at a World Cup since utility back Berrick Barnes in 2007. Dane Haylett-Petty will start on the right wing, moving from the fullback slot to make way for the return of Kurtley Beale.
"He has got a couple of very experienced campaigners next to him in Dane and Kurtley, so he'll have plenty of experience around him to talk him through," Cheika said Wednesday. "You wouldn't know that he's a teenager, the way that he carries himself around the team."
The Wallabies are coming off a 29-25 loss to Six Nation champion Wales last Sunday in a result that likely will decide top spot in the group. It was the first time since 1987 that Australia has lost to Wales at the World Cup.
The overhaul is mainly designed to give all players in the squad a chance to play in the pool stage, although it comes at the expense of consistency.
Captain Michael Hooper will play his third game of the tournament in a new backrow combination with No. 8 Jack Dempsey and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto. David Pocock, who has started the last two games on the blindside at Salakia-Loto's expense, is on the reserves bench.
In the backline, Nic White and Christian Leali'ifano will combine again in the halves, restoring the pairing that opened the tournament against Fiji, and Tevita Kuridrani will get his first start of the tournament.
"It's a chance to give some guys who haven't played any footy yet an opportunity to play," Cheika said. "We were always going to use our whole squad.
"At the same time also we wanted to pick a side more on the ball-carrying front, some bigger bodies in the back row and, of course, with Tevita (Kuridrani) coming back in, a different look with Matt To'omua, two bigger style of players in the centres."
Cheika said Bernard Foley, who Leali'fano replaces at flyhalf, is working hard to get back in the team. Foley was one of the mainstays of the squad that reached the final in 2015, but has been playing backup to Leali'ifano this season. He started against Wales but was replaced by Matt Toomua when the Australians fell behind 26-8 just after halftime.
"I think that (Foley) struggled a little bit on the weekend, no doubt about that, and Christian found his feet pretty well in the test matches this year," Cheika said.
Australia: Kurtley Beale, Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Jordan Petaia, Christian Leali'ifano, Nic White; Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper (captain), Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga'a, James Slipper. Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Sekope Kepu, Taniela Tupou, Rory Arnold, David Pocock, Will Genia, James O'Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper.