Michael Cheika has named teenager Jordan Petaia at outside centre for Saturday’s massive Rugby World Cup quarter-final against England.
- Jordan Petaia will start at outside centre in just his third Test for the Wallabies
- Reece Hodge returns to the Wallabies’ starting XV following his three0match suspension
- England announced a selection surprise by dropping five-eighth George Ford to the reserves bench
Petaia, who has played only 97 minutes of international rugby, will be thrust into action in just his third Test start against a powerful England midfield in Oita.
The talented 19-year-old’s selection in the 13 jersey is an attacking curveball from Cheika, as he hopes to out-think England coach Eddie Jones, whom he has never beaten as Wallabies mentor in six attempts.
Petaia, who has only played 11 matches in Super Rugby for the Queensland Reds, made an immediate impact for the Wallabies in his 40-minute debut against Uruguay.
On both occasions Petaia was played out of position on the wing, whereas against England he will be in his favoured outside centre position — albeit against a side of significantly higher quality than the tier-two nations he has played before.
His direct opponents in the England centres will be bulldozing Samoa-born centre Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade, after Jones dropped George Ford to the bench, moving Owen Farrell inside from 12 to 10.
In the halves, veteran Will Genia has been given the nod at half-back ahead of Nic White, and will partner Christian Lealiifano.
It is just the second time the pair have started a Test match together and marks the sixth Test match in a row in which Cheika has shuffled his halves pairing.
Hodge back from suspension
In another boost for the Wallabies, winger Reece Hodge returns to the side after serving a three-game ban for a high tackle against Fiji.
Kurtley Beale — who suffered a concussion against Georgia — has been named to start at full-back but could yet be replaced by Dane Haylett-Petty should he fail to recover from the knock in time.
In the forwards, Cheika has also kept faith with the Michael Hooper/David Pocock combination in the back row despite concerns over a lack of height in the line-out, with Isi Naisarani keeping his position at number eight.
Hooper was rested against Georgia, with Pocock effecting two steals at the ruck in his best performance of the competition so far.
England’s dominant pack is widely acknowledged as one of the most powerful in the competition, but the Wallabies will take heart from their own performance against Georgia’s pack last week.
Taniela Tupou’s impressive performances off the bench during the two pool stage matches have earned the ‘Tongan Thor’ a spot on the bench for the crunch quarter-final.
Wallabies squad: Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Christian Lealiifano, Will Genia, Isi Naisarani, Michael Hooper (c), David Pocock, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Allan Alaalatoa, Tolu Latu, Scott Sio
Reserves: Jordan Uelese, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Adam Coleman, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Nic White, Matt To’omua, James O’Connor