Gordon and Petaia to make Wallabies debuts against Italy as Cheika recalls Ashley-Cooper
Padua: Jake Gordon and Jordan Petaia will make their Wallabies debuts this weekend against Italy in a match that will also see Adam Ashley-Cooper return to the international arena for the first time since August 2016.
Cheika has made wholesale changes to the team that lost to Wales 9-6 in Cardiff last Saturday.
In the backs, Samu Kerevi is the only player that will wear the same jersey as the Wales fixture.
The two notable additions are that of Gordon and Petaia, the latter of which will become the third youngest Wallabies player in history behind Brian Ford (18 years and 90 days) and James OConnor (18 years and 126 days).
Petaia will play on the wing, with his childhood hero Israel Folau shifting to fullback to accommodate Ashley-Cooper on the other edge.
The Queensland Reds young gun will be given a license to show off his speed and power against the Italians, who are ranked 13th in the world.
Ashley-Cooper will bring up his 117th Test, making him Australias third most capped player, ahead of former captain Nathan Sharpe.
Cheika has also made a playmaking switch, dropping Kurtley Beale in place of Matt Toomua who takes the reigns at No.10.
It is the first time Toomua has worn the No.10 jersey for Australia in over five years and he will have Bernard Foley outside him at No.12.
Foley played inside-centre for the Wallabies in five Tests in 2016 when Quade Cooper was the teams No.10.
Despite the loss against Wales, Australias 10th from their last 13 starts, Cheika is clearly happy to chop and change his team despite the pressure being on he and his coaching staff.
Gordon, the NSW halfback, will make an eagerly-anticipated run-on debut ahead of Will Genia, who drops back to the bench.
In the forwards, Folau Faingaa has regained his spot as the teams starting hooker alongside props Scott Sio and Taniela Tupou.
The second row pairing of Izack Rodda and Adam Coleman have been retained, as have the back-rowers of Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper and David Pocock.
Cheika has gone for a 5-3 split on the bench that features Genia, Beale and Dane Haylett-Petty as the spare backs.
Jermaine Ainsley has also been named on the pine for what will be his second Test after debuting in the Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney this year.
Wallabies team to face Italy
(1-15): Scott Sio, Folau Faingaa, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Jake Gordon, Matt Toomua, Jordan Petaia, Bernard Foley, Samu Kerevi, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Israel Folau.
Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Jermaine Ainsley, Sekope Kepu, Rory Arnold, Pete Samu, Will Genia, Kurtley Beale, Dane Haylett-Petty.
Tom Decent is a journalist with Fairfax Media.