"Superstar" Jordy to lead Gen Next push of the Wallabies, say senior players

Rugby World Cup
by Iain Payten

Senior Wallabies have pointed to the huge potential of teenager Jordan Petaia, and the success of his peers in junior age group Australian teams, as reasons for optimism about the Wallabies' prospects in coming years.

Petaia was excellent in his third Test against England, where he was playing at outside centre for the first time.

Jordy Petaia with a hot-step against England in Oita. Photo: Getty ImagesIn only his second year as a professional, and an injury-affected one at that, the Queensland youngster showed why the Reds and Rugby Australia locked him down on a four-year deal, through to 2022.

Though hurting in the hours after the hours after their quarter-final defeat to England, departing Wallabies halfback Will Genia said Petaia was a good focal point for Aussie fans looking for hope in the future.

"The only person you've got to look at is Jordan, look how good he was, he was amazing, 19 years old, was one of the best players on the field, not just for us but for both teams,” Genia said. 

"You've got guys like that coming through, coupled with guys who have built a lot of experience who are still young. Our skipper (Michael Hooper), who will play 100 Tests the very next time he laces up the boots, (the) forward pack, I think we're in a really good position.”

The Wallabies had 11 players aged 25 or younger in their World Cup squad in Japan, and skipper Michael Hooper is only 27.

Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale, who is on contract with NSW next year and says he’s not “shutting any doors” on another World Cup in 2023, said Petaia will be a big asset by the next tournament.

Petaia with Samu Kerevi after beating Georgia. Photo: Getty Images"He is a special kid. He will be flying,” Beale said.

"He will be a superstar and it’s important that he is in a really strong rugby program. Australian rugby now has Dean Benton as S&C (coach) and he runs a very good program for the outside backs. 

"You can see a big improvement in Jordy to this point, with the way he trains, and if he has that same application and commitment to his training, no doubt he will be a superstar in years to come.”

Hooper agreed and said Petaia "was one of our best” against England.

Petaia posing with fans in Japan. Photo: Getty Images“It says a lot about some of the guys we've got coming through and there's some guys not even here that are going to be great in this jersey going forward,” Hooper said.

Beale said he hoped the young players experiencing their first World Cup in Japan will take valuable lessons into the next one.

“It’s an amazing experience and I hope the young guys who are sticking around for the next one really soak this up, and feel this feeling. It’s important that if you have this experience, you use it to make you a better player and I really hope they do that,” Beale said.

Results achieved by the Junior Wallabies, who beat New Zealand and made the under 20s world championship final, and the Aussie Schools and under 18s, who also beat New Zealand this year and toured strongly in Scotland and Ireland last year, indicate there is plenty of talent coming through the pipeline.

"There is a lot of hope there for Australian rugby,” Beale said.

"There always has been mate, it is a matter of making sure develop these kids and give them experience, and put them in good programs, so when they get the opportunity to play in big games in big tournaments like this, they can flourish. 

'And you can see little glimpses of it tonight with Jordy Petaia, Jordan Uelese, Izack Rodda is still young. These guys, they’re young but with the experience they’ve got from this tournament, it’ll make them a better player in years to come.

Fraser McReight led the Junior Wallabies to the under 20s World Championship final. Photo: Stu Walmsley/RUGBY.com.au"It’s important to highlight the next generation, and the 20s and schoolboys have had some positive results over the last couple of years. 

"That’s positive for Australian rugby. I know there are experienced guys leaving our group after this year and it’s an important time for us to grow, and give as much time and support to the kids coming through and enable them to be exposed to this level."