Teenager Jordan Petaia delivers on World Cup hype but Wallabies still have work to do



October 06, 2019 05:58:57

The Wallabies got a bonus-point victory, they avoided what would have been the greatest upset in Rugby World Cup history, and they remain on track to reach the quarter-finals in Japan.

It sounds straightforward, but what did we learn from the 45-10 triumph over Uruguay at Oita Stadium in a match the Wallabies were always expected to comfortably win?

Here are some the key takeaways from the Wallabies’ second victory in the pool stages at the World Cup.

Believe the hype about Petaia

The pre-match expectation ahead of Petaia’s long-awaited debut had not been seen since Israel Folau’s first appearance for the Wallabies in 2013, and the 19-year-old did not disappoint in Oita.

He crossed for a superb try in the 23rd minute, having taken receipt of a nifty Kurtley Beale inside ball close to Uruguay’s goal line, before playing a major role in setting up Tevita Kuridrani’s opening five-pointer just minutes later.

Petaia was replaced at half-time, as planned by the coaching staff in light of his recent injury troubles, and the fact he shone from his limited opportunities illustrates the class he possesses and why he has been tipped to become one of the Wallabies’ greatest outside backs.

Those predictions are not unfounded and the Queenslander can expect to get more match time in the Wallabies’ final pool match against Georgia in Shizuoka next Friday.

Petaia would look right at home on the end of the Wallabies’ backline should they meet England — as expected — in the quarter-finals and he may prove to be the X-factor coach Michael Cheika needs if his side is to go deeper in the tournament.

Discipline a worry for the Wallabies

Poor discipline at key moments proved costly for the Wallabies in their 29-25 loss to Wales in Tokyo last Sunday, so it is difficult to understand how they did not learn from their mistakes ahead of the Uruguay encounter.

The Wallabies gave up 12 penalties to Uruguay’s five and most alarming among that lopsided count were the two yellow cards dished out by referee Mathieu Raynal in the space of 15 minutes.

First it was lock Adam Coleman being sent to the sin bin for 10 minutes for his high tackle on Uruguay full-back Rodrigo Silva, before teammate Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was given time to cool off for a similar offence.

The Wallabies were lucky they were playing an emerging rugby nation such as Uruguay, which was unable to make its opponent pay when facing 14 players, as tournament heavyweights will not be as forgiving.

And with World Cup match officials on red alert for even the hint of a high tackle, the Wallabies desperately need to find their discipline when it comes to defence.

Wallabies still clocking off

Aside from the ill discipline, the Wallabies’ first half was marred by inconsistency.

Not long after Dane Haylett-Petty kicked off the scoring with a try in the fifth minute to open the scoring, the Wallabies allowed Uruguay to make an entry inside their 22, far too easily giving up possession and territory.

They found themselves in the same predicament after Petaia’s try and they were fortunate Uruguay’s lack of potency in attack meant the half-time scoreline was not closer than 19-3.

The Wallabies clicked into gear in the second stanza, with four tries helping put distance between themselves and Uruguay, but again they failed to produce an 80-minute performance in a pool match.

This trend will be punished by the likes of England, if results go to script, and the sluggish first half did not escape Cheika’s attention when he spoke post-match.

«I thought we were a little bit off the pace for the start, three games now a little bit off the pace at the start,» he said.

Aside from Petaia, who put their hand up?

The scheduling of the Wallabies’ pool matches — with fixtures against the second-tier Uruguay and Georgia rounding out the group stage — was always going to make it hard for Cheika to settle on his preferred starting XV for the business end of the tournament, given he was left with several unanswered questions following the loss to Wales.

But Kuridrani did all he could against Uruguay to stake a claim to start at outside centre in the quarter-finals with two tries in just his third Test since 2017, especially with James O’Connor potentially under an injury cloud because of a corked thigh.

Meanwhile, reserve prop Taniela Tupou perhaps played himself back into the first-choice matchday 23 with an energetic performance off the bench in the second half.

Cheika may still be no closer to deciding on who he wants to start in the halves, while blindside flanker Salakaia-Loto — in the time he spent on the field — may not have done enough to convince selectors they need to dispense of the dual openside flanker model in the back row.

The Wallabies have several selection decisions to make ahead of the quarter-finals and it is doubtful whether Friday’s clash with Georgia will give them the opportunity to confidently settle on the line-up they believe can carry them to success in Japan.





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