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Saint-Etienne: If Eddie Jones were to hand Max Jorgensen a Wallabies debut at the upcoming Rugby World Cup, the first person the Waratahs sensation should speak to is teammate Jordan Petaia.
At that pre-World Cup gathering last month in Darwin, Jorgensen jumped into a tank surrounded by crocodiles.
Facing crocodiles is one thing, but maiden Test at a World Cup?
In 2019, Graham Henry was asked about potential World Cup debutants and how they’d be feeling.
“They’ll be shitting themselves, quite frankly,” said the former All Blacks coach.
Petaia has been in Jorgensen’s position and is well-equipped to offer an insight into life as the next big thing in Australian rugby.
Max Jorgensen during a Wallabies training session in Saint-Etienne. Credit: Getty
Four years ago, at the World Cup in Japan, Petaia was the bolter of the Wallabies squad.
Against Uruguay, Petaia became the youngest player to represent the Wallabies at a Rugby World Cup – at 19 years, six months and 21 days – and dazzled on debut with a try in a win.
After a maiden game on the left wing, Petaia earned a start on the right edge in the next fixture against Georgia, who are Australia’s first-up opponents this week in Paris.
But Petaia’s selection at No.13 for the quarter-final against England was undoubtedly coach Michael Cheika’s boldest call of the entire World Cup.
Jordan Petaia scores a try against Uruguay in 2019. Credit: Getty
The Wallabies lost the knockout match 40-16 against an England team coached by Jones.
Now, Jones is pulling the strings as boss of the Wallabies. His selections across five Tests this year show he is not afraid to make calls outside the norm.
Andrew Kellaway is Australia’s incumbent fullback but all will be revealed late on Thursday night, Australian time, when Jones announces his starting XV.
Petaia, a young man of few words, has some simple advice for Jorgensen, who turned 19 on Saturday and will become the youngest Wallaby at a World Cup if he gets on the field in France.
Jordan Petaia has played 28 Tests for the Wallabies since debuting in 2019. Credit: Getty
“I hope he does [debut],” Petaia said. “I’d just say take it full throttle and don’t hold back. Enjoy it.
“Max is an unreal player. He is elusive and a quick learner. He gets along well with the boys and it’s easy for him to gel in and mix with the boys. He’s a good player.
“Coming off the back of an injury … [I have] been giving him a little bit of guidance there. He’s been smashing it. He doesn’t need too much help. Just lending a hand where I can help.”
Petaia has been rotated throughout the Wallabies backline and there has been plenty of debate around whether he is best utilised as a winger, fullback or outside-centre.
Jones has settled on the latter, picking Petaia at No.13 for both Tests against New Zealand and then the warm-up fixture against France.
The 23-year-old says he’s a different player to four years ago and won’t be overawed by the pressure.
The pain of a quarter-final loss in Oita still stings.
“I feel a lot more comfortable coming into this World Cup,” Petaia said. “That finals series was the biggest learning point from that last World Cup.
“Losing like that … was pretty tough considering you have to wait another four years. Many of the boys have said a lot of guys don’t get opportunities. You never know. It may be your last opportunity. It’s [about] making the most of it when it comes.
“There are a few boys from the last World Cup as well [who] remember that sour taste.”
Petaia, like his teammates, is singing from the same hymn sheet before an important opening clash at Stade de France.
“We’re here to win it [the World Cup],” Petaia said. “We’re not shying away from that challenge.
“We’ve spoken about it as a group, that every match is do-or-die. You can’t afford to drop too many games.
“Eddie has probably been to the most World Cups of anyone, so he speaks about savouring and enjoying the experience and making the most out of the Cup.”
Watch all the action from Rugby World Cup 2023 on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport. Every match ad-free, live and on demand in 4K UHD from September 9.
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