MELBOURNE, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Australia coach Michael Cheika’s selections throughout the Rugby Championship have generated their share of criticism but there have been few complaints about the decision to switch Dane Haylett-Petty to fullback.
After playing 22 consecutive tests on the wing, Haylett-Petty was handed the number 15 jersey after incumbent Israel Folau suffered an ankle strain in the tournament opener against the All Blacks.
Such was Haylett-Petty’s poise in the rearguard position that Cheika elected to keep the tall Western Australian there even when Folau returned from injury, shifting the New South Wales Waratah to the wing instead.
While Cheika tweaked his forward pack and changed his playmaking combinations back and forth, Haylett-Petty remained one of the few constants during the last five matches of the competition.
A nasty stomach complaint on the eve of the final match against Argentina on Saturday threatened to break the streak but Haylett-Petty rose from his sickbed to score two tries and take the man-of-the-match award in Salta.
“I always felt like I was going to feel much better come game time and our medical staff did a really good job getting me right,” the 29-year-old said.
“I was obviously a little bit nervous pre-game but once I got out there and started to warm up I felt pretty good and I was able to get through 80.”
The Wallabies’ Jekyll-and-Hyde performance against Argentina, where they turned a 31-7 deficit into a rousing 45-34 win, had plenty of pundits asking how the team could be so abject in one half and so clinical in the second.
Haylett-Petty said they needed to have a proper review of the game before the next test against the All Blacks in Yokohama in two weeks, the third and final Bledisloe Cup match.
“I don’t know, I think that’s something we need to go back and look at and I think there’s a big lesson there for us,” he said.
“Obviously the second half is how we want to play and the first half is not how we want to play, so to come out and be more consistent in that.
“I think it wasn’t so much technical, it was just heart, probably.
“We knew we had to respond, we knew this was an important game, we’ve been under a bit of pressure as a team and I think the boys came out and responded.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford