Heir Jordan: Wallabies call in youngster for debut
THE brave gamble to throw untried hooking hulk Jordan Uelese into a Wallabies debut against South Africa on Saturday night is aimed at a bigger pay-off at the Rugby World Cup in two years.
Uelese is just 20 and has the meagre experience of 28 minutes of Super Rugby yet coach Michael Cheika on Thursday commissioned him to play off the bench against the might of the Springboks pack at Perth's nib Stadium.
It's a call as bold as throwing Phil Kearns into a Test debut against the All Blacks in Auckland in 1989, when Kiwi rival Sean Fitzpatrick sneered at him as a baby thrown to black- jerseyed wolves.
In 12 months, Kearns was famously giving the forks to Fitzpatrick in a wonderful Wallabies victory in Wellington and Cheika will hope the 120kg Uelese grabs this chance with equal relish.
Uelese has been named on the bench but he can expect 10-15 minutes as a replacement in the second half should experienced starter Tatafu Polota-Nau help guide the Wallabies to a lead at that stage.
Polota-Nau knows all about youthful bloodings because he was the same age as Uelese when Eddie Jones handed him a Test debut off the bench against England at Twickenham 12 years ago.
Playing out of his comfort zone is nothing new for the impressive Uelese, who had his first run in rugby as a two-year-old for Oriental Rongotai's under-six team in Wellington, wearing nappies beneath his footy shorts.
"When I was in the 11s, you had to be under 60kg to play under-12s, so I had to go and play under-13s," Uelese said earlier this season.
"I've always played up a grade and had to mix it with the big boys, which is good.
"I think that was great growing up playing with older fellas, you sort of get used to it."
The chance for the Rebels hooker comes with veteran Stephen Moore on paternity leave in Brisbane for the birth of his third child.
Cheika has made four changes to the starting side. Polota-Nau comes in for Moore, Sekope Kepu is the new tighthead prop ahead of Allan Alaalatoa and lock Adam Coleman makes a timely return from a shoulder-joint injury for Rob Simmons.
In the backs, utility Reece Hodge takes over on the wing from Dane Haylett-Petty, who is heading for season-ending surgery on a biceps muscle issue.
Wallabies team to play South Africa at nib Stadium, Perth, on Saturday at 8pm (AEST)
1. Scott Sio (34 Tests)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (73 Tests)
3. Sekope Kepu (82 Tests)
4. Rory Arnold (14 Tests)
5. Adam Coleman (13 Tests)
6. Ned Hanigan (5 Tests)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (70 Tests)
8. Sean McMahon (17 Tests)
9. Will Genia (80 Tests)
10. Bernard Foley (47 Tests)
11. Reece Hodge (15 Tests)
12. Kurtley Beale (62 Tests)
13. Tevita Kuridrani (49 Tests)
14. Henry Speight (14 Tests)
15. Israel Folau (57 Tests)
16. Jordan Uelese (possible Test debut)
17. Tom Robertson (11 Tests)
18. Allan Alaalatoa (14 Tests)
19. Rob Simmons (73 Tests)
20. Jack Dempsey (1 Test)
21. Nick Phipps (53 Tests)
22. Samu Kerevi (9 Tests)
23. Curtis Rona (1 Test)