Wallabies to wear indigenous jersey for first time at World Cup

TOKYO -- The Wallabies will make history on Saturday when they wear their indigenous jersey for the first time at the Rugby World Cup.

They have only worn an indigenous strip twice before but the Wallabies insist the jersey's meaning has already evolved from its first wear, against the All Blacks in Brisbane in 2017, and is now a more complete representation of the squad's different cultural backrounds.

Kurtley Beale may be the only current indigenous player in the squad but there is a strong Pacific representation across the Wallabies group and Matt To'omua, whose father is of Samoan descent, sees the jersey as a chance to recognise that diverse player group.

"The make-up of the Wallabies team in itself is a lot different culturally than it was, say, 10 years ago," To'omua said earlier this week.

"It is very much indigenous art and an indigenous jersey ... but it is representative of the fact society is changing and very much in a sport [rugby] that was seen as being an upper-class, white-collar sport in the past.

"To see an indigenous jersey filled with a team full of brown guys is kind of cool and kind of different. That's just where society is at the moment. To be at the forefront of that as a Wallaby is quite a proud moment personally."

Wallabies back-rower Jack Dempsey said the squad would likely sit down and discuss the jersey's meaning closer to kick-off and that Beale, who has been restored to the starting side at fullback, potentially would talk through the design and the importance of it.

Dempsey also spoke of how the jersey reflected the Wallabies' diverse player base and that pulling on a special strip just added a little bit more to the excitement the players felt when they ran out for kick-off.

"It's not just something we only bring out for this kind of week; we always make sure, we have a lot of Polynesian boys as well, and we have a lot of different cultures, it's something that we're always sharing and experiencing together throughout the whole year really," Dempsey said. "I think when you just put on the jersey it's just more of that visual kind of emphasis on it.

"It's always good, it's [the jersey] a bit different this year, more green. I was lucky enough to start in it the last two times: England and then the All Blacks in '17. Every time we put it on, it's that little bit different, that little bit more special, and obviously having KB there at fullback this weekend; he's a good mate of mine personally, so I'm going to get around him a bit more in the week, he's a bit happier this week."

While Dempsey and others have been fortunate to wear the jersey on both occasions, it will be just the second chance for Beale after he was forced to miss last year's Test against England for breaking team protocol alongside Adam Ashley-Cooper a week earlier.

"Obviously it was disappointing to miss out," Beale told reporters at Oita Stadium on Friday.

"I was a very proud teammate to see all the boys wearing the indigenous jersey at Twickenham and it'll be no different tomorrow night.

"It's definitely a symbol that we're all behind, it's galvanized us, bringing us together."

That Test in London ended in a heavy defeat by Eddie Jones' men but Australia produced one of the finest performances of the Michael Cheika era when the Indigenous jersey received its first wear, against the All Blacks in 2017.

Uruguay aren't expected to give the Wallabies too much trouble despite their shock victory over Fiji, yet still Australia will want to turn in a commanding performance after Sunday's loss to Wales.

And the match will be extra special for rookie Jordan Petaia, another player with Pacific heritage, who will at last make his Test debut after a wretched run with injury.

Veteran prop James Slipper can't wait to see what Petaia can produce on the game's biggest stage, a level he knew the Reds winger would always reach after first seeing him in action at Ballymore.

"He's just an athlete, he's gifted with a lot of skill; obviously he's got the physical build to be a good player and he's a bigger back running around," Slipper said. "But the one thing I saw in him was a lot of confidence, as a young player; back at the Reds, we played him in a trial game and he was still pretty much at school at that time and he really put his hand up.

"And he wasn't frightened to have a go, so I think that's a really good characteristic for a player, especially a young player, coming through and debuting at a World Cup. We're all behind him and we know he's going to do his best for a team. It's pretty exciting."