Jordan Petaia will play just his third Test against England. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty
Jordan Petaia will play just his third Test against England. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty

Wallabies take huge sudden-death gamble on rookie

Boom teenager Jordan Petaia is set to be unleashed against an unsuspecting England as the Wallabies go for broke in Saturday's World Cup quarter-final.

 

It shapes as one of the biggest selection gambles the Wallabies have ever taken at a World Cup but if it comes off it could be the masterstroke that proves the difference in what is shaping as a titanic clash.

 

Petaia's two previous appearances for the Wallabies have both been on the wing but News Corp Australia understands that he will start at outside centre against England.

 

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Jordan Petaia will play just his third Test against England. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty
Jordan Petaia will play just his third Test against England. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty

That means James O'Connor, who was recalled to the side this year, will move back to the bench, as one of three reserve backs in a reshuffled backline.

 

Will Genia has been given the nod to start at halfback ahead of Nic White, and will partner Christian Lealiifano, who returns to the starting five-eighth position after Bernard Foley and Matt Toomua were given their opportunities in the pool games.

 

BELOW: SEE AUSTRALIA'S LIKELY QUARTER-FINAL TEAM

 

Toomua will revert to the bench, where he has been hugely impressive so far throughout the tournament.

 

Reece Hodge will be rushed back into the starting lineup, on the right wing, after completing the ludicrous three-match suspension he copped for his try saving tackle on rampaging Fijian Peceli Yato.

 

James O'Connor is set to be dropped to the bench. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty
James O'Connor is set to be dropped to the bench. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty

 

Dane Haylett-Petty, who did a great job filling in for Hodge, misses out on the 23-man squad altogether, with Kurtley Beale picked at fullback, pending one last medical check after he suffered a head injury in last weekend's win over Georgia.

 

The starting forward pack is the same eight that played the first two pool matches against Fiji and Wales with the selectors sticking with both Michael Hooper and David Pocock, but there is a big change on the bench.

 

Veteran front rower Sekope Kepu, Australia's most capped prop, is understood to have lost his spot to Taniela Tupou because of the massive destructive impact the Tongan Thor has had in his World Cup appearances.

But it's the selection of Petaia that could be the real gamechanger.

 

The 19-year-old has all the ingredients to be a superstar of the future but with the Wallaby backline struggling to click so far, the selectors have decided to roll the dice and throw him into the fray where he will square off against England's Manu Tuilagi.

 

It's a huge risk for the Wallabies because it means there will be yet another midfield combination trying to learn on the run and Petaia is the most inexperienced Test player in the squad.

 

But after scoring a try on his debut and ticking all the boxes in his two limited appearances so far, it's a risk worth taking and one that will certainly surprise England.

 

Kurtley Beale has overcome a head knock. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty
Kurtley Beale has overcome a head knock. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty

England's players have not played against the Queenslander before and could go into the match underdone after their final pool clash against France was cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis.

 

England's defensive coach John Mitchell said he was always expecting some tricks from the Wallabies.

 

"The Wallabies are a very clever team. They will be clever on the weekend. They are always clever and always have the ability to surprise," he said.

 

"Having witnessed a number of Australian teams and played against them as a youngster they have always been highly intellectual in the way they play the game. It is something we respect."

 

LIKELY WALLABIES TEAM: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Reece Hodge, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 David Pocock, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaatlatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio

News Corp Australia

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