Thorn hopes Petaia's "cruel" injury run is over ahead of youngster's Super Rugby AU return

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Reds coach Brad Thorn hopes youngster Jordan Petaia has used up his bad injury luck as the talented centre prepares for his Super Rugby AU return.

Petaia will come off the bench on Saturday night against the Brumbies in his first Reds outing since February after dislocating his shoulder.

The 20-year-old burst onto the Super Rugby scene as an 18-year-old but foot, hamstring and this most recent shoulder injury, have all hampered his ability to string consistent games together.

When he has played, he generally finds himself among the best and that proved the case even in last year's World Cup when he became one of the youngest Aussies ever to play at the international showpiece.

Thorn said while the road had been frustrating for Petaia, he hoped he had seen the last of these injuries.

"It's been frustrating for him," he said.

"Went all the way to Italy,got a hammy strain, missed out on a first Wallaby chance, then he went into Wallaby camp leading into the World Cup and had an issue there, played some outstanding footy at the World Cup.

"I was really pleased for him and then the second year in a row two games in or whatever, one game in, he got unfortunately a bang there.

"Some guys can be unlucky like that in the sport, can be a bit cruel.

"The worst bit about this sport can be injuries and just hoping he's got those behind him now and there's a long run of footy for him. He's a great kid."

The silver lining of a tumultuous 2020 for Petaia is that he is able to return for the Reds, when initially his injury had ended his Super Rugby season and put his test chances in doubt.

Petaia and prop Feao Fotauika are both returning from long layoffs this weekend and neither would have had the chance were it not for the coronavirus-forced shutdowns.

Thorn said the competition shutdown was a blessing in that sense for injured players, able to focus on their rehab without the temptation of trying to rush back for games too early.

"That time, they've used it wisely, just the pressure comes off of playing, they can just do their rehab," he said.

"The two guys we got, it'll be a start for them, I'm sure there'll be a bit of rust there but they seem well-prepared and I know they're keen to be involved.

"There's only so long you can do training, you just can't. At some stage, you need to play so that's come up for them and we're excited about having them."

Though Petaia is being eased back via the bench, Thorn was quick to say how critical that role could be in a competition where many matches have gone down to the wire.

"It is exciting to see some strike there on the bench and all those guys in that position, we call them finishers, they've got big jobs to do," he said.

"I think (England coach) Eddie Jones aid the game probably has changed where it's 23 and often we put importance on who's starting but from my experience it's the last 20 minutes often that's the money time, that's where games were decided.

"So, there's definitely want to have the right men out on the park around that time also."

The Reds will be looking to end a six-year drought in Canberra when they take on the Brumbies and a victory would also keep their undefeated record in Super Rugby AU intact.

Thorn played down the "undefeated" tag but said his side were embracing the challenge of facing the competition favourites.

"It's an exciting challenge and we'll be going down there to compete, to put in a strong performance," he said.

"There's been talk of (us being) undefeated. Let's face it, it's three games, one was a draw - in a normal situation, the first two would've been trial games so let's not get too carried away with that stuff."

The Reds take on the Brumbies on Saturday August 1 at GIO Stadium, Canberra, kicking off at 7:15pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy tickets here. Buy a Kayo subscription here.