PREVIEW: Australia v Uruguay
WORLD CUP POOL MATCH: Nineteen-year-old Jordan Petaia will hope to make an immediate impact for Australia when he makes his long-awaited debut in a “grand final” against Uruguay at the World Cup on Saturday.
The hulking teenager, named on the left wing, has twice seen his international debut delayed by injury but he will finally get his chance as Australia look to bounce back from their defeat by Wales and move towards the quarter-finals.
The gulf between the teams is large, with Australia sixth in the rankings and Uruguay well down at 18, but Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is taking no chances against a team that handed Fiji a shock defeat.
He’s called for more muscle from a rearranged back row, improved concentration, and better handling to provide width on attack – where Petaia will be lurking in his first start.
“There’s not many guys that get to make their debut in a World Cup so he’s blessed with the opportunity,” Cheika said.
“I know he’s a fine young man and he’ll take the opportunity with both hands for sure.”
Australia lie third in Pool D, a point behind Fiji but with a game in hand. They have made 12 changes from their 29-25 loss to Six Nations champions Wales.
Fiji, who were beaten by Australia after leading for much of the match, and were then upset 30-27 by Uruguay, face unbeaten Wales in their final pool game.
After their narrow defeat by the Welsh, the pressure is on the Wallabies to get maximum points from their remaining games against Uruguay and Georgia.
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“Essentially, now it’s the grand final week for us,” said prop James Slipper. “We’ve seen what they did to Fiji earlier in the tournament and it’s going to be a hard match.
“It’s important that we play a good game and start to build some momentum going into the rest of the tournament.”
Number eight Jack Dempsey and flank Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, both destructive ball-carriers, come into the side to assert themselves early.
“We are after a fast start, it’s something we want to work on, and, as a back-rower, that is something you can have a hand in, getting that quick start and getting a bit of a roll on,” said Dempsey.
Slow starts have been costly for the Wallabies and although they managed to claw their way back to beat Fiji they weren’t able to recover from going behind against Wales, leaving them facing a likely quarter-final against England.
But Cheika said they were not looking that far ahead.
“If you start thinking you’re in the quarter-finals, you leave yourself open to attack and we’re genuinely not,” he said.
Cheika put the slow starts down to handling and concentration issues and it will not get any easier holding on to the ball when the play Uruguay in the humid atmosphere of the Oita roofed stadium.
The Wallabies have conceded four tries in their two games from a mix of an intercept, a dropped ball and missed tackles.
“We’ve also created opportunities. If you watch the two games, we’ve created opportunities at the start of the game, we maybe haven’t taken those opportunities at the start, whereas in the back 60 minutes or 50 minutes of games we have,” he said.
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Players to watch:
For Australia: The 19-year-old Jordan Petaia, who makes his debut, will certainly be a guy to look out for. Matt To’omua can be a vital cog coming from the bench.
For Uruguay: Centre Andres Vilaseca, who will captain his country for the third time, lead Uruguay in a 67-15 triumph over Chile on June 24, 2018 but has only worn the armband once since – against an Argentina XV on June 15, 2019.
Head to head: At flyhalf Australia’s Christian Lealiifano will face Felipe Berchesi – Player of the Match in Los Teros’ victory over Fiji – who has already established a Los Teros record at a single World Cup with 17 points and will be looking to add to his all-time RWC tally of 32 points in the game against the Wallabies.
2015: Australia won 65-3, Birmingham (World Cup Pool match)
Prediction: Don’t think there will be any sort of upset, Australia will comfortably win this by 25 points or more!
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt To’omua, 11 Jordan Petaia, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nicholas White, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 David Pocock, 21 Will Genia, 22 James O’Connor, 23 Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Uruguay: 15 Rodrigo Silva, 14 Federico Favaro, 13 Tomas Inciarte, 12 Andres Vilaseca (captain), 11 Nicolas Freitas, 10 Felipe Berchesi, 9 Agustin Ormaechea, 8 Manuel Diana, 7 Juan Diego Ormaechea, 6 Manuel Ardao, 5 Manuel Leindekar, 4 Franco Lamanna, 3 Diego Arbelo, 2 German Kessler, 1 Juan Echeverria.
Replacements: 16 Guillermo Pujadas, 17 Joaquin Jaunsolo, 18 Juan Pedro Rombys, 19 Ignacio Dotti, 20 Juan Manuel Gaminara, 21 Santiago Arata, 22 Felipe Etcheverry, 23 Agustin Della Corte.