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Short, sweet debut for Petaia


Short but sweet debut for teenage Wallaby

Jordan Petaia wishes his sizzling Australian rugby Test debut against Uruguay could have lasted beyond halftime but he is relieved to simply emerge unscathed.

The 19-year-old whizkid from Brisbane lived up the hype and was the most-positive story to emerge from a hot, difficult Saturday afternoon in Japan, as the ill-disciplined Wallabies prevailed 45-10 in their Rugby World Cup pool match in Oita.

Petaia has become one of just a few players to make their international debuts on the highest stage.

He didn’t touch the ball for the first 23 minutes but, when he did, it was eye-popping.

His second touch was a testament to work rate as he pulled himself up from an earlier play and sliced onto an inside pass from Kurtley Beale.

Better was to come, leaving three defenders grasping from a tight spot before sending Tevita Kuridrani on a clear 40m run to the line.

Continued below…

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High balls and defensive duties were handled with aplomb, as Petaia racked up two breaks and six defenders beaten before being replaced by 35-year-old Adam Ashley-Cooper at the break – surely the biggest age differential between subs in Test history.

“I would have loved to have kept playing but that was always part of the plan, coming back from injury,” Petaia said.

“Pre-game, I was pretty nervous and, after the game, it all really hits you all at once. It’s an awesome feeling.”

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was full of the praise for the teenager.

“He made some nice touches. He has been absolutely impeccable,” Cheika said at the postmatch press conference.

“His injury, from where he was on the first and second days of camp, and to come here and score a try and play a big part in another.

“Other things too: he ran down the edge, bounced back in and kept the ball alive. We only really wanted to use him for the first part of the game as he’s coming back, he probably could have used another week because it was a significant injury, so he’s done supremely well to get back and make his debut. He’ll be a part of it next week.”

Petaia’s first cap came almost a year after his intended debut last November against Italy in Padua.

An 11th-hour hamstring injury ruled him out and a separate injury had sidelined him for much of 2019.

He said his troubles made this week mean more.

“It’s all been part of the journey. I guess this was meant to be the moment I made my debut so I’m just happy to get out there and be healthy.”

Petaia was delighted to have parents Helen and Tielu in the stands and never fretted as play did not make it towards his wing throughout the first quarter.

He said gunning for a place in the starting XV for bigger games to come is on his agenda.

“Everyone’s trying to push for the best position they can,” he said.

“Whatever’s right for the team, whatever the coaches want to do, I’m happy to do,” he said.

– with AAP

RugbyPass sat down with Matt Giteau and Mike Tindall to get their views on the Rugby World Cup:

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Short but sweet debut for teenage Wallaby
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