Three-game Brumby Rob Valetini bolts onto Wallabies spring tour

ACT Brumbies prodigy back-rower Rob Valetini has joined the Wallabies squad in Japan ahead of their spring tour, despite having played just three Super Rugby games.

Valetini, veteran centre Adam Ashley-Cooper and 18-year-old Queensland Reds winger Jordan Petaia were the surprise inclusions named in coach Michael Cheika's squad on Monday.

Rob Valetini scoring his first Super Rugby try against the Melbourne Rebels earlier this year.

Rob Valetini scoring his first Super Rugby try against the Melbourne Rebels earlier this year. Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

Two knee surgeries disrupted Valetini's debut Super Rugby season and the young flanker thought he'd be spending November in Brumbies preseason camp.

But the 20-year-old impressed for the Canberra Vikings in the National Rugby Championship and his devastating form could now earn him a gold jersey next month.

Even if he doesn't play on the spring tour, Cheika wants to familiarise Valetini with the national setup because a stellar Brumbies campaign will see him thrown into the World Cup cauldron next year.


Comeback: Adam Ashley-Cooper has joined the Wallabies in Japan.

Comeback: Adam Ashley-Cooper has joined the Wallabies in Japan.Credit:PA

Test centurion Ashley-Cooper has made his first Wallabies squad in two years as he chases an audacious fourth World Cup.

The equal-third most capped Wallaby moved to France after the 2015 World Cup and played his last two Tests against New Zealand in August 2016.

Now, with a NSW Waratahs reunion on the horizon and this week's call-up, Ashley-Cooper, 34, will throw his hat in the ring to join the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw as players who've been to four World Cups.

Cheika said Ashley-Cooper would provide good balance and decision-making finesse for the team, which struggled to make the right calls in attack against the All Blacks in last weekend's Bledisloe Cup loss in Yokohama.

"His experience is important and also just his versatility, his ability to cover a few positions," Cheika said.

"With him and then a guy like Jordan, its probably a good balance. We need a couple of extra backs here on the trip.

"[Ashley-Cooper] will train with us, well see where hes at. Hes come on the tour with us to be available for selection, hes not coming for a holiday."

But it is in with the new as well as the old for the Wallabies, with Cheika calling up teenage sensation Petaia to further bolster his back line stocks ahead of Australias three-Test spring tour.

Cheika confirmed Petaia will be in contention to become the youngest player in the professional era to make his Test debut since James OConnor came off the bench against Italy in 2008.

Petaia could even share the same debut opposition and city as OConnor, a decade apart, if Cheika throws him into the Test arena with a bench spot against Italy in Padua on November 17.

He trained with the Wallabies in Cessnock ahead of the Rugby Championship but did not make the final squad.

"Hes just got a lot of good touches," Cheika said of Petaia. "Hes a good lad, he wants to succeed, he wants to do the work, hes eager.

"Having him here with us on these next few weeks will give him an idea of whats required at the level and give him a chance to make a play for the World Cup squad."

Five-eighth Matt Toomua also joined the squad from Leicester in England and Tatafu Polota-Nau will link up with the squad when they fly to Cardiff, Wales, at the end of the week.

The Wallabies face Wales first, then Italy, before a season-defining clash with England at Twickenham.

Australia have not lost to the Welsh since 2008 and will be under pressure to show they have not slipped below that standard. If they do, a win against England has the potential to dull the pain and set the scene for the World Cup year ahead.

Eamonn Tiernan is a sports reporter with The Canberra Times

Georgina Robinson is a Sports Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald

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