Bold selections

Sports | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 18 Oct 2019

Australia coach Michael Cheika named teen sensation Jordan Petaia in his starting side to face England in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final in a bold gamble.

Cheika's surprise decision to field the explosive 19-year-old at center is one of five changes for tomorrow's clash in Oita, Japan, with wing Reece Hodge back from a three-game ban and center James O'Connor dropping to the bench.

Allan Ala'alatoa, Michael Hooper, Will Genia and Christian Lealiifano also return to the starting lineup.

Petaia has played just two Tests, both on the wing, but selectors have backed him to make an impact at outside center, where he has played for Super Rugby side Queensland Reds.

It represents something of a risk by Cheika, who also named centurion Genia at scrum-half in place of Nic White, with Kurtley Beale poised to start at full-back.

"I trust him infinitely," Cheika said of Petaia. "He's looking good as gold. It's going to be fast and aggressive but I just know he will rise to the challenge - I've seen it in him."

Petaia became Australia's youngest World Cup player with a lively Test debut - scoring one try and making another - in the 45-10 thrashing of Uruguay two weeks ago. But he will come under heavy fire from England, whose coach Eddie Jones has promised to defend with "brutality" as he looks to extend a six-game win streak over the Wallabies.

England, who beat Jones' Australia in the 2003 final, sprung a surprise by dropping fly-half George Ford to the bench and giving Henry Slade his first start of the tournament.

Jones insisted Ford has a "significant role to play".

Captain Owen Farrell moves from inside center to fly-half, with Slade starting alongside Manu Tuilagi in midfield. Slade, hampered by a knee injury, has played just 40 minutes of rugby since the end of the English domestic season in June.

"George is in the 23, we have a starting team and a finishing team," Jones said. "Everyone has a role in the team."

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