Michael Cheika has full trust in 19-year-old Jordan Petaia
Centre becomes the first man born this century to start a RWC knockout match
Australia head coach Michael Cheika talks to Jordan Petaia of Australia during a training session at Matsuoka Ground in Oita. Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Australia boss Michael Cheika says he trusts teenager Jordan Petaia “infinitely” after selecting him for Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against England.
The 19-year-old is Australia’s youngest Test centre since Jason Little 30 years ago.
He also becomes the first player born this century to feature in a Rugby World Cup knockout game.
“We didn’t sit back and earmark this game for him to come and play at 13,” Wallabies head coach Cheika said.
“We just watched the games and made the assessments of each player as they went along, and there were things that we liked.
“And what we’ve seen from Jordan, both on the field in games and also at training, we felt that this would be a game that would suit him.
“The guy has been in around the squad for a while now, even though he’s young. He is more than ready to do this.
“I trust him infinitely, and that’s why he has been chosen.
“I wouldn’t be looking at the age of players at either end of the spectrum. This is going to sound silly, but you just go and play footy you know.
“Yes, it’s going to be fast and aggressive and all that type of stuff, and I know that lad will rise up to that challenge. I’ve seen it in him, so I know he will on Saturday.”
Petaia moves from wing to midfield, with Reece Hodge returning after serving a three-match suspension.
Hodge was banned following his citing for a high tackle on Fiji’s Peceli Yato in the Wallabies’ opening World Cup fixture last month.
Other changes see half-backs Christian Lealiifano and Will Genia both start, plus skipper Michael Hooper, who wins his 99th cap, and prop Allan Alaalatoa.
Full-back Kurtley Beale, meanwhile, starts after completing graduated return-to-play protocols.
Asked for his assessment of Australian Eddie Jones’ work as England head coach, Cheika added: “He’s been there for a bit now, hasn’t he? He’s done a good job, for sure.
“It always hurts me when there’s an Aussie over there, you know what I mean?
“Trevor Bayliss and Eddie and, I don’t know, Wayne Bennett. You want them at home, but it is what it is. What do you do?
“We respect all our opponents a lot, and obviously the further you go on in the tournament you’ve got to maintain that respect for your opponent.
“But the bigger focus for me has always been on our team getting our tactics right, getting our mindset right for the game and making sure that all the things we need are in place to get the job done.
“Maximum respect always to the opponent, but we are going out there to do the job.”