At the start of 2018, Jordan Petaia hoped he would make the Junior Wallabies cut, but he never expected to be one of its most well-known names.
Petaia, 18, has had a breakout season with the Queensland Reds, becoming the club’s youngest Super Rugby debutant, and was initially left out of the World Rugby U20s squad due to his provincial commitments.
With a host of injuries, though, Petaia was flown halfway across the world this week to link up with the squad for their must-win clash against New Zealand.
It’s not a development he would ever have imagined, but it’s one he is keen to embrace.
“My goals this year was just to try and make this U20s team and hopefully come down to France and play this tournament, but everything else that's happened is just a blessing and I’m just really grateful,” he said.
“I've been wanting to play in this tournament for a while now and I'm super keen.”
Petaia was part of the Australian Schoolboys that lost to New Zealand 34-11 lsat year and he is desperate to avoid a repeat on Friday (AEST), in his Junior Wallabies debut.
“(We) lost to them last year playing schoolboys so really keen to get over them this year and really beat them, so that's super exciting,” he said.
The teenager has been an excitement machine for Queensland in Super Rugby, playing five full games in a row and pushing fellow rising star Izaia Perese out of the team with his form, and he will be a major boost for the Aussies against the Kiwis.
Though Petaia hasn’t played any matches with the side yet, he has been part of national camps in the lead-up to the tournament and said there was no issue with slotting into the group.
“I know a few of the boys, I came to a few of the camps, so I'm familiar with most of the boys but it's been good coming back and getting around the boys, learning the plays and just super excited to get out there,” he said.
The Junior Wallabies take on New Zealand in a must-win final pool match on Friday at 5am AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.