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Wallaby wunderkind takes centre stage

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Wallaby wunderkind thrust into starting quarterfinal role

The Wallabies will hope Jordan Petaia’s choice of karaoke song isn’t an omen after the rookie teenager was thrust into a daunting role in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

Rookie teenager Petaia will play just his third Test and his first at outside centre when Australia face England on Saturday, ousting James O’Connor in one of the great tournament selection shocks.

Coach Michael Cheika confirmed he had rolled the dice on one of his country’s most promising attacking talents, who made his Test debut on the left wing just two weeks earlier at the same Oita Stadium venue against Uruguay.

The 19-year-old passed that assignment with flying colours, bagging a try and a sweet assist to celebrate becoming Australia’s youngest World Cup player.

However, the stakes are raised immeasurably in a knockout game against an England team featuring juggernaut midfield back Manu Tuilagi.

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The match will falls exactly a week after typhoon Hagibis’ arrival forced the Wallabies to hunker down at their hotel, where Petaia joined his team-mates for a karaoke session to pass time.

His choice of song? Eminem’s hit track “Lose Yourself”, something the two-time champions are banking won’t happen to the youngster in a pressure cooker environment.

They have repeatedly said Petaia boasts maturity beyond his years.

Cheika has attracted criticism for experimenting through the pool stage but this switch has come without any sort of trial run.

A hamstring niggle meant the Queensland Reds star was unavailable to face Fiji and Wales in the first two pool games.

That injury came after having almost his entire Super Rugby season wiped out by a foot problem.

It is a giant setback for O’Connor, who impressed in Australia’s win over Fiji but appears to have paid for two ineffectual outings since.

Cheika’s forward pack is predictable but he’s thrown two further backline curve balls by starting halfback Will Genia and fullback Kurtley Beale.

Nic White has been the favoured No.9 in 2019 but Genia’s experience won him the nod, with his 110th Test cap to come inside restored five-eighth Christian Lealiifano.

That pair began one Test together this year, against Argentina in Brisbane in July, but it’s another five years back for their previous gig as the starting Australian halves.

Beale passed his concussion protocols after suffering a head knock against Georgia last week but was still regarded as an outside chance to start.

His return, along with Reece Hodge’s restoration on the right wing after serving a three-game ban, means there is no room for Dane Haylett-Petty, who has been one of the leading Wallabies performers in Japan.

Also dropped from the bench is veteran prop Sekope Kepu, with Taniela Tupou promoted.

Michael Hooper is captain in his 99th Test.

Australia: Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Christian Lealiifano, Will Genia, Isi Naisarani, Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Allan Alaalatoa, Tolu Latu, Scott Sio. Reserves: Jordan Uelese, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Adam Coleman, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Nic White, Matt To’omua, James O’Connor.

– AAP

England may have had the week off, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t working hard:

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Wallaby wunderkind thrust into starting quarterfinal role