Youngest ever Wallaby to ignite World Cup bid
Teen spirit Jordan Petaia is set to become the youngest World Cup player in Wallabies' history with just 70 minutes of club rugby behind him in five months.
The 19-year-old's dynamic package to energise from wing or outside centre is too great for him to be overlooked when coach Michael Cheika unveils his 31-man squad in Sydney on Friday.
The strapping Queenslander is still uncapped but the September 7 Test against Samoa at Sydney's Bankwest Stadium is the ideal chance to blood him before the Cup quest.
Petaia has been off the radar for the Wallabies' four recent Tests but has been fully involved at intense squad trainings over the past seven weeks.
Every session has sharpened his acceleration and work in contact since last month's comeback from a tricky mid-foot ligament injury which required three screws in March.
Cheika's master stroke was organising a switch from Wests on a bye week to get Petaia a guest 40 minutes of hard running, tackle-breaking and off-loading with the Sunnybank club.
More than a dozen top players with Test experience over the past two years will miss this Cup squad, such is the squeeze for spots being resolved by Cheika and his co-selectors.
That means no berth for 20-Test forward Ned Hanigan, long-serving halfback Nick Phipps, winger Sefa Naivalu or determined last-shot centre Karmichael Hunt.
The case for Petaia, James O'Connor's vibrant three-Test comeback and Dane Haylett-Petty will bump loyal 118-Test servant Adam Ashley-Cooper, 35, from the outside backs.
Fullback-winger Haylett-Petty's shaky stocks must have risen with every high kick unconvincingly covered by Kurtley Beale in the wet against the All Blacks in Auckland.
With no Israel Folau, Haylett-Petty is the Wallabies' best defuser of high balls and they will rain from kick-happy Cup sides like pool rival Wales, England, South Africa and Ireland.
Cheika used 33 players during the four Tests so not all of his most recent Wallabies will make this squad either.
Not a minute in those Tests was granted to a No. 3 halfback so take that as a clear sign that only Will Genia and Nic White will fly to Japan while Joe Powell stays sharp in a train-on group in Australia.
That frees up room for an extra outside back like Petaia.
Experienced flyhalf Bernard Foley must be in the squad because he's iced clutch Cup games before.
In the pack, the most contentious positions will be in the backrow because the frontrow picks itself and the lock jobs almost do.
Six backrowers were picked for the 2015 World Cup and all had huge roles in various ways.
Explosive Jack Dempsey has recovered from his shoulder injury in Sydney club rugby so he's in the debate with Luke Jones and Pete Samu for two backrow spots.
Just a few days after his Test debut in Auckland, young openside flanker Liam Wright will be the unluckiest of them all because colossus David Pocock will be ready to take his place.
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