Petaia to give us a glimpse of the future
THE launch of "Flair Jordan" is such an invigorating moment for the Wallabies that the musical chairs being played in the halves at this World Cup can escape scrutiny for just a moment.
Jordan Petaia will be Australia's youngest-ever debutant at a World Cup at 19 when his much-delayed Test debut finally unfolds on the wing against Uruguay in Oita on Saturday.
The kid should have a handle like "Pup" but that's the shout he gives to his cousin Matt Toomua, who is 10 years his senior.
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The in-form Toomua's direct, straightening running lines will be employed at inside centre which is wasting this chance to play him at flyhalf because he won't be bumping Samu Kerevi out of inside centre for a big quarter-final.
As expected, the Wallabies have made sweeping changes, 12 in all to the starting side, to give as many squad members as possible significant minutes against a lesser nation.
It is still a line-up with 10 players who have been regular starters at various times since the 2015 World Cup so there is strength, cohesion and a one-time Brumbies core in the inside backs to run the team.
Coach Michael Cheika has reverted to the Christian Lealiifano-Nic White combination in the halves and you sense that a coherent, controlling display will book them all the way through to the expected quarter-final crunch against England.
Two hamstring tweaks and a five-month foot ligament injury have sentenced Petaia to three false starts in 12 months with a Test debut in the breeze so he is playing it cool.
"I don't want to jinx things (so) I'm just trying to get to that game on Saturday and see what happens from there. Just excited and keen to get on," Petaia said.
The kid that Test great Tim Horan dubbed "the Wallabies future arriving today" will enjoy a special moment running on with Toomua because their families are so close.
"It's exciting. I never thought I would play with Jordy so it's pretty cool we get to do it on this stage in a World Cup," Toomua said.
"It's ironic he calls me 'Pup' and he's 19, 10 years younger than me, but such is the modern day.
"We basically call our families cousins.
"When my parents used to travel for church I'd stay at their house for weeks, months at a time and vice versa. We're probably closer family than our blood family."
Petaia grew up idolising Toomua, who excelled at Brisbane State High while the youngster was still in short pants in the younger grades.
Petaia has versatile strengths as a power runner with a great change of pace as well as subtle body fakes to elude defenders.
Toomua's take on the exciting Petaia package is a good insight into why he has been backed at such an age.
"Athletically he is a big boy but more so than a few young guns early on he is just as competent on both sides of the ball, attack and defence," Toomua said.
"It's not often you say that about young guys. He likes getting in the rough and tumble stuff, which is brilliant, and it's probably a lot of the reason why the coaches have shown a lot of faith in him at a World Cup."
Petaia admitted, when he was on crutches in March, that the World Cup looked unlikely but his resilience has won out.
"Teammates and family really helped me get through those times and injuries. It makes it a whole lot easier coming back and I had something to look forward to," Petaia said.
Cheika freely admitted that Bernard Foley was not at his best against Wales last weekend. Settling on a No.10 is urgent yet Cheika is still happy juggling his cards.
"We know that Bernard struggled a little bit on the weekend, no doubt about that, and Christian, he found his feet pretty well in the Test matches this year," Cheika said.
"Matt Toomua has played very well there as well in finishing for us.
"They are all doing their best in those positions and we feel comfortable with the way we're choosing at the moment as we build through the tournament."
Cheika explained that the White and Will Genia juggle at halfback was partly a factor of picking just two halfbacks for the Cup: "We've only got the two halfbacks here so the division of time is also very important as well."