BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — MAY 27: Jordan Petaia poses during an Australian Wallabies media opportunity at Ballymore Stadium on May 27, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — MAY 27: Jordan Petaia poses during an Australian Wallabies media opportunity at Ballymore Stadium on May 27, 2019 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Rookie ‘X-Factor’ wins World Cup selection

Youngblood Jordan Petaia and golden oldie Adam Ashley-Cooper have been fused into a World Cup wing gamble for the ages by the Wallabies.

Coach Michael Cheika has unveiled his 31 names for the showpiece tournament in Japan with joy and heartbreak because far more fringe men missed out than made the cut.

What he has done is admirably back the wow-factor of the deceptive Petaia to deliver on rugby's biggest stage at just 19 when the squad flies to Japan next month.

On one hand, Cheika is confident this teen winger-centre with footwork, body fakes and power can learn quickly enough to face the best nations in the world.

On the other, he is backing a loyal Mr Reliable, with as many grey hairs as actor George Clooney, to keep delivering on his 35-year-old legs.

Ashley-Cooper's fourth World Cup will equal the achievement of George Gregan and he will be playing at the same age as the champion halfback at the 2007 tournament.

 

Veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper has been selected to play his fourth Rugby World Cup. Picture: Will Russell/Getty Images
Veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper has been selected to play his fourth Rugby World Cup. Picture: Will Russell/Getty Images

 

Wallabies great Stirling Mortlock is a huge fan of what Petaia offers.

"It's good to have a couple of jokers, unknown quantities like Petaia, so other sides go 'wow, where did that come from?' when you hit them," Mortlock said.

"I'm excited. He's got X-factor aplenty and the change to a significantly less structured style of Wallabies' attack really suits."

When he makes his debut, Petaia will become Australia's youngest ever World Cup Wallaby eclipsing Joe Roff, who played at 19 years, 253 days against Canada in 1995.

Petaia said he feared his World Cup hopes had "flown out the door" when on crutches with a tricky foot ligament injury that required three screws to be inserted in surgery in March.

 

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has picked a blend of youth and experience for the World Cup in Japan. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has picked a blend of youth and experience for the World Cup in Japan. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

 

Petaia, Ashley-Cooper, Dane Haylett-Petty and Jack Dempsey are all in but electrifying fullback Tom Banks, No. 3 halfback Joe Powell and backrower Luke Jones were squeezed out.

Veteran Tatafu Polota-Nau, after 89 Tests, had played too little rugby on a repairing knee to oust one of the three hookers, Tolu Latu, Jordan Uelese and Folau Faingaa.

Skipper Michael Hooper will lead a squad boasting 1406 Test caps, a lift of 200 on the squad Cheika steered expertly to the final of the 2015 World Cup.

 

WALLABIES WORLD CUP POOL DRAW

DateOpponentLocation
Saturday, September 21FijiSapporo Dome, Sapporo
Sunday, September 29WalesAjinomoto Stadium, Tokyo
Saturday, October 5UruguayOita Bank Dome, Oita
Friday, October 11GeorgiaShizuoka Stadium, Shizuoka

 

The unluckiest to miss out is Banks, who had former Wallabies David Campese and Chris Latham pushing his cause as unpredictable X-factor.

He appears to have been squeezed out by the more versatile Haylett-Petty, the fullback-winger who had to be there as the best high ball catcher in the squad post-Israel Folau.

Banks, Powell, Jones, flanker Liam Wright and veteran hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau will have to make do with being in the extended Wallabies squad for the pre-Cup Test against Samoa in Sydney (September 7) and flying out Friday for a camp in New Caledonia.

Haylett-Petty is there for the aerial bombardment the Wallabies must handle to beat new world No. 1 Wales in Tokyo on September 29 to earn a favourable quarter-final draw.

 

Dane Haylett-Petty can expect an aerial assault when the Wallabies play Wales at the World Cup. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Dane Haylett-Petty can expect an aerial assault when the Wallabies play Wales at the World Cup. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images

 

The Welsh kicked 28 times when suffocating England 13-6 last weekend under a closed roof in Cardiff which was almost at the level of the All Blacks (30) in the rain in Auckland.

"We've become a really tight group and it was a very difficult process in picking only 31 players," Cheika said.

"It's important we select a squad that will handle the tournament play and our draw in particular at the Rugby World Cup, as well as maintain a strong competition for places in the team.

"These next few weeks are about building and adding that little extra edge as a squad and we'll be working hard to make sure we deliver on the qualities we want people to see in Japan."

 

 

WALLABIES' WORLD CUP SQUAD

BACKS (14)

Kurtley Beale

Adam Ashley-Cooper

Dane Haylett-Petty

Reece Hodge

Marika Koroibete

Jordan Petaia

James O'Connor

Tevita Kuridrani

Samu Kerevi

Matt Toomua

Bernard Foley

Christian Lealiifano

Will Genia

Nic White

FORWARDS (17)

Isi Naisarani

Michael Hooper (c)

David Pocock

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto

Jack Dempsey

Rory Arnold

Izack Rodda

Adam Coleman

Rob Simmons

Sekope Kepu

Taniela Tupou

Allan Alaalatoa

James Slipper

Scott Sio

Folau Faingaa

Tolu Latu

Jordan Uelese

Extended Wallabies squad for pre-World Cup camp and Test against Samoa:

Joe Powell, Tom Banks, Liam Wright, Luke Jones, Tatafu Polota-Nau

 

 

 

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Stream the Rugby World Cup 2019 on KAYO SPORTS. Every match Live & On-Demand on your TV, computer, mobile or tablet. Get your 14 day free trial >