Jordan Petaia will get his chance to “boss the game” after injuries opened the door for him to face England at fullback for the Wallabies.
The move has been a long-time fascination in Australian rugby, the 22-year-old finally seeing minutes in the No.15 for the Queensland Reds this season.
Reds and Wallabies teammate James O’Connor is adamant he can be a game-breaker at Test level, starting on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium.
“I’m a big Jordan Petaia fan and know the potential he has,” said O’Connor, who will remain on the bench behind No.10 Noah Lolesio.
“He has done all the work behind the scenes, wants this one pretty badly, so let’s see how he goes.
“Once he gets his opportunity to open up I don’t want to be against him one-on-one.”
Coach Dave Rennie has teased the prospect for some time, with injuries to Tom Banks in their Perth win and now Andrew Kellaway (hamstring) during the week allowing him to make the “logical decision”.
“He’s going to have to boss the game from back there and we think he can do the job,” Rennie said.
“His kicking, (catching) high balls, the ability to roam and get more ball in his hands excites us.
“This is the best I’ve seen Jordy; he’s physically excellent.
“If we can buy him some time to catch and attack he can be a real handful.”
Code-hopper and Queensland Reds teammate Vunivalu won’t slot into the wing position Petaia vacated, with another former NRL product Tom Wright instead filling the void and the versatile Izaia Perese added to the bench.
Fit again and fresh off the birth of his first child, Taniela Tupou returns and No.13 Hunter Paisami replaces Len Ikitau (calf), while Matt Philip replaces the suspended Darcy Swain in the second row.
Nick Frost could debut off the bench while Jake Gordon has again beaten Tate McDermott to the bench halfback spot.
Probed on what he expects from England, Rennie anticipates more vigilance from players and officials after their provocation in the lead-up to the Swain headbutt was seemingly missed.
“It’s surprising the first offence, the push in the face, was pretty aggressive and wasn’t seen by any officials,” he said.
“Maybe if it had have been it would have been dealt with and Darcy wouldn’t be facing the judiciary.
“Everyone’s awareness is a little sharper around that now.”
The 30-28 win snapped an eight-game losing streak against England and Australia have won their last 10 Tests at the Brisbane venue.
“It felt that we dipped our toe in the water in that first half, guys got a better understanding of the lift and intensity required at this level,” Rennie said.
“I expect England to be better too, so it should be a hell of a match.”
Australia will wear their First Nations jersey during NAIDOC Week and sing the national anthem in Yugambeh language as they pay homage to Lloyd McDermott, the first Wallaby to identify as a First Nations man.
WALLABIES: Jordan Petaia, Tom Wright, Hunter Paisami, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Nic White, Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper, Rob Leota, Cadeyrn Neville, Matt Philip, Taniela Tupou, David Porecki, Angus Bell. BENCH: Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Nick Frost, Pete Samu, Jake Gordon, James O’Connor, Izaia Perese.