By Nick Mulvenney
OITA, Japan (Reuters) – Teenager Jordan Petaia will play his first test at outside centre in Australia’s biggest game for four years after being included in Michael Cheika’s starting side on Thursday for their World Cup quarter-final against England.
The 19-year-old, who made his test debut in the pool match against Uruguay, replaces James O’Connor and joins Samu Kerevi in a centre partnership which will face off against England’s re-worked midfield of Manu Tuliagi and Henry Slade.
Reece Hodge will play outside Petaia on the right wing after being recalled following his three-match ban for a high tackle in Australia’s opener against Fiji, bringing with him long-range kicking skills that could be crucial in a tight match.
Inside Kerevi for Saturday’s game at Oita Stadium will be flyhalf Christian Lealiifano and scrumhalf Will Genia after Cheika tinkered with his halfback partnership for the fifth time in five matches.
There was no tinkering in the back row, however, where the combination of opensides Michael Hooper and David Pocock on the side of the scrum will be complemented by the power of Isi Naisarani at number eight.
That combination can leave Australia short of line-out options but Cheika does have locks Adam Coleman and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto among the five forwards on the bench.
Kurtley Beale will start at fullback having completed the concussion protocols after suffering a head knock in Australia’s final pool match against Georgia last Friday.
Cheika has also given youth a chance on the bench with 23-year-old Taniela Tupou favoured over the experienced Sekope Kepu as back-up tighthead.
Scrumhalf Nic White and versatile backs O’Connor and Matt Toomua offer plenty of backline options off the bench.
Team: 15-Kurtley Beale, 14-Reece Hodge, 13-Jordan Petaia, 12-Samu Kerevi, 11-Marika Koroibete, 10-Christian Lealiifano, 9-Will Genia, 8-Isi Naisarani, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-David Pocock, 5-Rory Arnold, 4-Izack Rodda, 3-Allan Alaalatoa, 2-Tolu Latu, 1-Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16-Jordan Uelese, 17-James Slipper, 18-Taniela Tupou, 19-Adam Coleman, 20-Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 21-Nic White, 22-Matt Toomua, 23-James O’Connor.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)