Boom rookie’s World Cup dream revived
He's one of the most exciting talents Australian rugby has seen in years, and despite a horror foot injury it appears the World Cup dreams of this young star aren't over just yet.
His involvement in two camps for Wallabies' hopefuls over the past fortnight has been a huge step towards winning his four-month battle with a surgically-repaired foot ligament.
Wallabies boss Michael Cheika was delighted that Petaia was ahead of schedule and has put a priority on him getting back to match fitness in club rugby for Wests.
The skilful Reds centre was fully involved in the Wallabies' four-on-four attacking drills at his home club in Brisbane on Thursday when his footwork and smarts in support were obvious.
In the same drills, as a defender, he expertly read the ball reaching Kurtley Beale and a front-on check sat the Test regular on the turf.
Petaia is only 19 but there is such all-round skill in his 98kg frame that every effort must be made to get him into contention for the World Cup.
Petaia was upbeat but in the dark about a precise comeback date.
"The docs will let me know that but it feels good to be training again and not have any issues when I finish a session," said Petaia, with an ice pack on his left foot.
When he had three screws removed five weeks ago, he had a band inserted to wrap around the two bones and joint to keep it more secure around the area of the Lisfranc injury.
The potency of a Samu Kerevi-Petaia centre pairing for Queensland was eye-popping when they dominated the Highlanders in February before the youngster's injury the following week.
Petaia ran for 148m, with smart surges and stepping into space, and shredded the tackle of All Blacks fullback Ben Smith.
Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani are direct, physical types for the centres, Matt Toomua, Christian Lealiifano, James O'Connor and Beale are finesse players and Petaia has the rare blend of both.
If all goes to plan, Petaia could be lining up for Wests against Souths at Chipsy Wood Oval on July 20, the same day the Wallabies face South Africa in Johannesburg.
He would be ushered into the wider squad when the Wallabies fly back for their one Test in Brisbane this season against Argentina at Suncorp Stadium on July 27.
O'Connor will be involved in that Brisbane week too after his super-sharp audition as an invitee for two days of this week's camp.
There is no time to waste with just four Tests until the World Cup squad is named and Cheika's selection of Nic White as one of three halfbacks for South Africa reflects it.
Cheika knows what veteran Nick Phipps and Jake Gordon offer so he's left them behind to further gauge White's transition from English club Exeter to the international arena again.
Third-placed University of Queensland today welcome back Reds winger Jock Campbell for the Premier Rugby clash against Sunnybank at Oldmac Oval.
Reds prop Ruan Smith will stiffen the GPS front-row against Norths at Courtney Oval.