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Wallabies throw Jordan Petaia in at deep end for quarterfinal vs. England

OITA, Japan -- Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and his fellow selectors have pulled yet another selection shock at the World Cup after Jordan Petaia was unveiled at outside centre to face England on Saturday in Oita.

Rumours of Petaia's move closer to the action spread from Thursday morning and it was confirmed when the Wallabies' 23 for the quarterfinal against Eddie Jones' side was released later that afternoon.

"We didn't sit back and earmark this game for him to come and play at 13," Cheika said of Petaia. "We just watched the games and made the assessments of each player as they went along, and there were things that we liked and what we seen from Jordan both on the field in games and also at training and we felt that this would be a game that would suit him.

"The guy's been in around the squad for a while now even though he's young, he's more than ready to do this. The way his demeanour is you wouldn't think he was picked, he was just loping around as per normal so it's going to be great.

"I trust him infinitely and that's why he's been chosen."

Nineteen-year-old Petaia will play just his third Test after starts against Uruguay and Georgia, which came on either wing, over the last two weeks in Japan, but he now faces a significant step up in partnering with Samu Kerevi in the Wallabies midfield.

The Queensland Reds duo combined twice in the Super Rugby season before Petaia was injured in Round 3 against the Crusaders, and they will now line up against England pairing of Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade after Jones opted to move Owen Farrell into No. 10 at the expense of George Ford.

"I've had thoughts about Jordy since the first day he actually walked into our club at the Reds, the way he trained," Kerevi said of his latest centre partner. "I think he just had that rare talent and now he's really refining that, becoming the player that he is.

"I think Cheik's spoke about it a couple of weeks ago, he's still writing his own story, I'm really excited to see how he goes, not just for this weekend but the rest of his career. From the first time I seen him at training and the way he is, he's going to be one of the greats."

Elsewhere, Cheika and fellow selectors Scott Johnson and Michael O'Connor have made yet another change to the Wallabies halves, with Will Genia and Christian Lealiifano replacing Nic White and Matt To'omua respectively.

Genia and Lealiifano last started together in the Wallabies' Test against the Pumas in Brisbane, this week's switch making it the sixth game in succession Australia have changed up their halves combination.

David Pocock has been retained in the back-row alongside skipper Michael Hooper and Isi Naisarani, ensuring there will be a fierce breakdown contest against England's dynamic duo of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill.

"The pack's been pretty much unchanged the whole way through," Cheika said when asked about the back-row. "We've been really pleased with the way all of our forwards are performing and there's been a lot of consistency in that selection for what we think is our No.1 pack going into this game.

"I don't think we've had any doubts over that at all. We've been very certain about what our selections have been in the forwards and we've done that for a bit of a reason and they've delivered on that front.

"So the consistency in them will tell me that they'll deliver again on Saturday."

Fullback Kurtley Beale has come through the concussion protocols to start at fullback with James O'Connor preferred as the outside back cover on the bench ahead of Dane Haylett-Petty.

AUSTRALIA: Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Christian Lealiifano, Will Genia; Isi Naisarani, Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Alan Alaalatoa, Tolu Latu, Scott Sio.

Replacements: Jordan Uelese, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Adam Coleman, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Nic White, Matt To'omua, James O'Connor.