Rugby-Once prodigy Petaia gets his shot at fullback for Australia

  • Rugby
  • Friday, 08 Jul 2022

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Autumn International - Scotland v Australia - BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Britain - November 7, 2021 Australia's Jordan Petaia in action REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Jordan Petaia was 19 when he made his debut for the Wallabies at the 2019 World Cup, scoring a try with his second touch, but on Saturday he will finally get his first start at fullback against England at Brisbane's Lang Park.

Now 22, Petaia got his chance because of injuries to Tom Banks and Andrew Kellaway but his coach and team mates are convinced that he is ready to play in the shirt long considered his destiny.

"Physically, he's outstanding," captain Michael Hooper told reporters at Brisbane's Lang Park on Friday.

"When he's on fire, he's got the height and the jump. He's quite a rangy mover, which makes him difficult to tackle, and he's got all the tricks in the tool kit as well. He's a complete package."

James O'Connor was once a prodigy himself after making his debut at the age of 18 and nervelessly converting his own try with the last kick of the game to beat the All Blacks a couple of years later.

The 31-year-old, who will backup flyhalf Noah Lolesio from the bench on Saturday, said he was a "big fan" of his Queensland Reds team mate.

"Once he gets his opportunity to open up, I don't want to be against him one-on-one," O'Connor said on Thursday. "(He) wants this one pretty badly, so let's see how he goes."

Injuries to his still growing body mean Petaia has played only 16 tests, many off the bench, in the three years since his debut.

In last week's first test in Perth, when England prodigy Henry Arundell caught the eye with a late cameo, Petaia came off the bench to score Australia's first try in a 30-28 victory.

"This is the best I've seen Jordy, he's physically excellent," coach Dave Rennie said after naming his team.

"He's going to have to boss the game from back there and we think he can do the job."

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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