By Ian Ransom
OITA, Japan (Reuters) – An untimely lapse in off-field discipline robbed Kurtley Beale of the chance to wear the Wallabies’ indigenous jersey at Twickenham last year but the veteran fullback will don it with pride at the World Cup against Uruguay on Saturday.
Australia will wear the strip at Oita Stadium for the first time at the global showpiece and only the third time ever. They have also sought permission to wear it in the semi-finals in Japan, should they make it that far.
Aboriginal Australian Beale, along with fellow back Adam Ashley-Cooper, was forced to miss the England test last year after the pair breached team protocols.
Media reports at the times said their omission was due to inviting friends back to Ashley-Cooper’s hotel room after the 9-6 loss to Wales two weeks earlier.
It was a tough pill for Beale to swallow but the 30-year-old said he was glad to finally get his chance to show off the mainly green strip that represents the country’s 700,000 indigenous Australians.
“Obviously it was disappointing to miss out,” he told reporters at Oita Stadium on Friday.
“I was a very proud team mate to see all the boys wearing the indigenous jersey at Twickenham and it’ll be no different tomorrow night.
“It’s definitely a symbol that we’re all behind, it’s galvanized us, bringing us together.”
Indigenous athletes are heavily represented in rugby league and Australian Rules football but only 14 have played for the Wallabies in the team’s 120-year history.
Beale is currently the only Aboriginal Australian player in the Wallabies camp.
Australia were edged by Wales 29-25 in their second Pool D clash on Sunday and are looking to bounce back against the much-improved Uruguayans to get their World Cup on firmer footing.
Another Wallaby will have his chance to shine on the global stage after past near-misses when uncapped teenager Jordan Petaia makes his debut on the wing against Uruguay.
The Queensland Reds 19-year-old was a surprise inclusion in the World Cup squad but would have made his test debut last year against Italy had he not suffered an injury in the leadup to the match.
Another hamstring injury in the pre-tournament training camp in New Caledonia dashed his hopes of a debut in the warmup test against Samoa, but he is now set to become Australia’s youngest World Cup player and first test player born this century.
“Jordan’s had a tough run. He could have debuted a long time ago which is saying a lot about the ability he has and the belief of the team has for him,” Hooper said of the imposing, 6ft-3in (1.90m) teenager.
“He will do special things. He’s obviously right at the start of his journey. Can’t wait to see what he puts out there tomorrow and he’s got a lot of growth still.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)