By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) – Australian utility back Matt To’omua is happy to start at centre for the Wallabies in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup Pool D match against Uruguay as he looks to make his case to be Michael Cheika’s main man at flyhalf.
Christian Lealiifano gets the nod at flyhalf for the Uruguay match, just as he did for the World Cup opener against Fiji, whilst Bernard Foley, who started there in the defeat to Wales, drops out of the 23-man squad.
To’omua starts outside former Brumbies team mate Lealiifano on Saturday but, having come on at flyhalf to play an influential role in Australia’s attempted comeback against the Welsh he sees the Uruguay match as an audition to make the number 10 jersey his own.
“A little bit,” he said on Wednesday when asked if Saturday was an audition for the number 10 jersey.
“It has been chopped and changed a little bit there for whatever reason. My goal has always been to get a starting spot.”
“We will see, hopefully I can produce a good performance and push my case for it.”
“I have said it a couple of times and a genuinely mean it, there isn’t too much difference in the way we play with 10 and 12 so the transition is maybe easier than it has been in the past,” he added.
In naming his team on Wednesday, head coach Michael Cheika also handed a debut to 19-year-old Jordan Petaia on the wing.
Petaia would have made his test debut last year against Italy had he not suffered an injury in the run-up to the match and another setback in the pre-tournament training camp dashed his hopes of a first cap in the warm-up match against Samoa.
The teenager sees the latest call-up as reward following a tough year.
“Team mates and family really helped me get through those times and injury,” said the Queensland Reds player, who usually features at centre for his club.
“It makes it a whole lot easier coming back and it gives me something to look forward to, training with the boys and obviously the family are supporting me back home.”
One man he has been able to call upon for advice both at home and in camp is To’omua, who has known Petaia since he was a young boy.
Their families are very close and they have played rugby together for years.
“We basically call our families cousins. I call his mum and dad uncle and auntie. I think technically not really but we grew up together,” explained To’omua.
“We are probably a closer family than our actual blood family so it has been pretty cool.”
“I didn’t think we would play together but he is pretty talented to get in at this age,” added the 29-year-old.
“He has burst onto the scene a fair bit since then and got a lot of hype and stuff like that,” he said.
“But he was always talented when we were younger and a little tough kid as well, which is kind of cool because I had an older brother and he always liked to mix it with us, which was cool.”
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)