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Horan's World Cup calls: Take Petaia; bench Pocock

Wallabies great Tim Horan has called for Jordan Petaia to be included in Australia's World Cup squad and he is also in favour of using David Pocock as a super-sub off the bench in Japan.

Michael Cheika and fellow Wallabies selectors Michael O'Connor and Scott Johnson will unveil their 31-man squad on Friday with only a few positions seemingly up for grabs. The final places on offer could depend on whether the selectors opt for three scrum-halves and three hookers, or risk taking only two players in each specialist position to Japan.

Those decisions will likely have ramifications across the second-row back-row and back-three, where a number of fringe squad members will be running the numbers to see if they can squeeze onto the Qantas flight bound for Tokyo in mid-September.

And Horan, who was named the Player of the tournament in 1999, believes one of those final remaining spots should be awarded to the uncapped Petaia. At just 19 years of age, Petaia has already been given the responsibility of caring for Wally - the Wallabies touring mascot - as the youngest member of the squad and Horan has few qualms about the Queenslander's ability to handle himself at the highest level.

"I wouldn't say it's a risk selecting Jordan Petaia, he's going to be a sensational player," Horan told reporters. "He could be one of the great players [in Australia], but we just need to take our time with him.

"He's been in the squad now for four or five weeks; he knows the environment; he knows what it's going to take to play; maybe he's used on the bench or he starts against Samoa. But you've definitely got to use him and you've definitely got to take him away in the 31-man squad."

With Samu Kerevi a standout at inside centre and James O'Connor having moved ahead of Tevita Kuridrani as the Queenslander's midfield partner, Petaia would provide Cheika with another option at outside centre but one also capable of slotting onto the wing.

"I don't think they've [O'Connor and Kerevi] done enough as a pairing, but I certainly think James has been very good at 13 and Samu Kerevi's been the best player we've had all year in Super Rugby and also the Test matches," Horan said.

"There's an opportunity there for Petaia to play a couple of pool games, I'd say he'd play against Samoa [in Sydney] and then you've got Tevita Kuridrani. I don't think you're going to get a [centre] combination; I think you've just got to pick two players that suit teams you're going to play against."

Petaia's selection could however come at the expense of veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper who is targeting a fourth consecutive Rugby World Cup.

"Tough question. Is he going to go to another World Cup? His experience is going to be very important if he gets selected, it depends on the make-up between backs and forwards," Horan said of Ashley-Cooper.

"I think he'll be a bit unlucky because Jordan Petaia's [sic] hopefully going to be on the plane, and there [are] four centres already that you've got with Tevita Kuridrani."

The Wallabies were served up some of their own medicine in the weekend's loss to the All Blacks, which has extended Australia's Bledisloe Cup drought into an 18th year.

With Sam Cane and Ardie Savea joining Kieran Read in New Zealand's back-row, the All Blacks utilized a loose-forwar trio that featured two breakdown specialists, just as Australia had done so at the last World Cup with Pocock and Michael Hooper.

But Horan believes the Wallabies would be wise to stick with the back-row trio of Hooper, Isi Naisarani and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto this time around, and look to use a fit-again Pocock as an impact player.

"It depends on the make-up of the back-row; I'd actually prefer David Pocock to come off the bench," Horan said when asked whether Pocock should come straight back in at No. 6 or No. 8. "For a World Cup you need a big back-row; Michael Hooper [as] captain, Isi Naisarani's been going well; who's the six?

"Has Lukhan Salakai-Loto done enough at six to earn that spot again? It probably depends on who you're playing. You might have a David Pocock on the bench and bring him on at halftime. I don't think we can go too deep in the competition having Hooper and Pocock in the same back-row starting. Certainly one of them off the bench will work."