Four minutes. That’s how long Dave Rennie’s experiment with Jordan Petaia has lasted at fullback, with the Reds back shifted to the wing for the Wallabies’ crunch Test against Michael Cheika’s Pumas.
Instead, Rennie has, as previously reported, turned to Tom Wright, who made the most of his rare opportunity at fullback against England in Brisbane last month after Petaia was forced from the field due to a concussion, to solve the No.15 crisis.
Ever since Israel Folau’s sacking in early 2019, the Wallabies have yet to nail down someone to own the role and injuries over the years have only clouded the role.
Wright, who has been afforded precious few minutes in the position because of Australian rugby’s love affair with Tom Banks, is the latest to be given the jersey, with Andrew Kellaway, Banks and Kurtley Beale all unavailable.
But the decision to turn to the Brumbies back is a curious one because the Wallabies had long considered Petaia a fullback for the future but have gone away from that almost as soon as they gave him an opportunity.
Petaia will instead start on the wing in Mendoza on Sunday (AEST) and provide the Wallabies some aerial threat after Rennie’s team went away from their short-kicking game against England in July.
Wright on Monday hinted that the Wallabies would look to kick more in an attempt to make inroads against the front-line heavy Pumas, who themselves have largely done away with kicking since Cheika took over as head coach earlier this year.
“They play quite a frontline dominant, defensive style,” Wright said.
“So you’ll probably try to find yourself dropping it on the toe if you can, but the backs probably more so.
“They’ve got a fair bit of linespeed and like to fill that frontline but it’s certainly not something that we thought was a good opportunity for us necessarily against England.
“So maybe your observation there was spot on and there probably wasn’t as many dropped on the toe initially, but it’s definitely something that is in our toolbox at all times.”
Petaia is one of seven changes to the team that went down to England at the SCG last month, with injuries once again striking.
While Samu Kerevi was always going to miss the tour, his ACL injury has given Hunter Paisami and Len Ikitau the opportunity to own the midfield.
They will benefit from having Quade Cooper return in the No.10 jersey, with the experienced playmaker ready to go after pulling up lame in the warm-up ahead of the first Test against England.
Up front and Rennie has made a number of changes, promoting Folau Fainga’a at hooker after Dave Porecki (concussion) joined Angus Bell on the injury list.
Allan Alaalatoa starts ahead of Taniela Tupou at tight-head prop, while Darcy Swain comes straight back in to partner Matt Philip in the second-row after serving his two-week ban for his head-butt in Perth.
Jed Holloway will make his debut at blindside flanker after being named alongside Michael Hooper and Rob Valetini.
As reported, Rennie has opted for a six forwards, two backs split on his bench.
Hooker Lachie Lonergan has been named for the first time this year, while prop Matt Gibbon is in-line to make his debut too.
Elsewhere, Nick Frost, Rob Leota and Pete Samu give the Wallabies some heavy and versatile timber off the bench.
Halfback Jake Gordon and Reece Hodge will provide cover off the bench, with the latter serving as Cooper’s back-up should anything occur to the 34-year-old in what will be his first match in more than three months.
Wallabies: Tom Wright; Jordan Petaia, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Marika Koroibete; Quade Cooper, Nic White; Rob Valetini, Michael Hooper (c), Jed Holloway, Matt Phillip, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga’a, James Slipper. Replacements: Lachlan Lonergan, Matt Gibbon, Taniela Tupou, Nick Frost, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Jake Gordon, Reece Hodge.