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'Discovered a jewel': All Blacks legends rave about Reds star, urge Eddie to give him full backing for Wallabies

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9th March, 2023
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Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has been told he has a World Cup ‘jewel’ in Queensland Reds Jordan Petaia, with a trio of All Blacks legends raving about his performances in the No.15 jersey this season.

Petaia was superb in the Reds’ 71-20 demol;tion of Western Force last weekend and also started in the jersey in the opening round. He’s currently keeping Jock Campbell out of the starting side for Queensland.

Former All Blacks Jeff Wilson and Mils Muliaina – who both played Tests at No.15 – as well as former NZ flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens – were impressed by Petaia’s start to the season, in a position that will be a key one for Jones to get right for the World Cup.

Under Dave Rennie, the No.15 jersey was shared by several players. His first choice was Tom Banks but he twice suffered broken arms under Rennie, with Tom Wright, Andrew Kellaway, Reece Hodge and Petaia all getting game time there.

As part of a discussion abut how the All Blacks should approach the fullback position in their Test squad this year Wilson and Muliana – speaking on the Breakdown Podcast on Thursday – both singled out Petaia as a player who is excelling in the role.

“Look at a guy like Jordan Petaia and the way he played, and his skill set. Yes, I knew he who could kick but he kicked so good on the weekend I was thinking this guy looks like a genuine fullback,” Muliana said.

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“When you get to Test match level you’ve got to have that. While your mindset as fullback, is taking the width, roaming around and seeing if there’s opportunities, if you get yourself in trouble or there’s nothing else on or no one’s back with you know you’ve got a kicking weapon.

 (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

“You know: ‘man don’t panic, just kick it for distance’. Have that almost as a second thought. Where the game has got to you have to have that in your armour, you’ve got to have the ability to say ‘man I’m going to find long’.

“Often that’s where you’ve got to get it. It’s not so much creating holes, it’s more let’s find some space when you’re kicking. From an Australia point of view, Jordan Petaia I think that’s his best position.”

Wilson said: “I think they’ve discovered a jewel. If he can just stay on the field. I just want him to stay out there. He’s just had a number of injuries that keep coming up.

“In some ways it was clearly disappointing for Dave Rennie because he started to create something inside that group, but Eddie Jones has a blank canvas.

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“He’s looking at all these players and their body of work and how they are playing – he’s got nothing to lose in terms of his combination of people he can put together.

“You look at a Jordan Petaia and you’re going ‘that’s the sort of footballer they need out on the field’.”

Wilson said the other issue for the Wallabies was deciding who their flyhalf will be with Quade Cooper sidelined, but that Petaia had the skill set to make fullback his own.

Mehrtens named Petaia as one of this top three players in the Force game, telling Stan Sport: “I liked Jordan Petaia, I thought when he brought the ball back and when he looked up at the line, the opportunities, I thought he was very, very dangerous. And he showed a thumping boot quite a few times.”

Petaia is currently keeping Campbell out of the Reds starting side with Campbell saying the pair have a “friendly rivalry” and complimentary skill sets.

“Having someone as good as Jordie putting pressure on me and vice versa, it’s only helped both of us,” Campbell told AAP.

“We’re quite good mates, we’re learning off each other and it’s a friendly little rivalry we’ve got going.

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“We’ll have discussions over (defensive) set-ups, running lines.

“But you have to take into account we’re very different players in our positions, bring very different things.

“Jordie brings a lot of things that I can’t bring, a lot of things that nobody can bring, with that speed and athleticism.

“I bring voice, composure, making the right decisions.”

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