New Zealand v Australia, Bledisloe Cup
Peter Betham pumped for Test debut
October 18, 2013
The Waratahs' Peter Betham runs into Tom Marshall, Crusaders v New South Wales Waratahs, Super Rugby, AMI Stadium, Christchurch May 31, 2013
Peter Betham scored five tries for the Waratahs in Super Rugby 2013 © Getty Images

Peter Betham is the Wallabies' ninth-choice winger, but he refuses to let that trouble him ahead of his dream Test debut in the third Bledisloe Cup match against the All Blacks at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday.

Betham was drafted into the Wallabies squad as the only specialist winger fit and available when both Joe Tomane and Chris Feauai-Sautia were ruled out with hamstring problems, yet it wasn't until the entire squad started giggling alongside him in a team huddle on Tuesday that he discovered he was about to receive a Test call-up for the Bledisloe Cup clash in Dunedin.

"I was wondering why everyone had these funny faces," Betham said. "Then [coach Ewen McKenzie] goes 'congrats to Pete, he's going to make a debut for the Wallabies'. But then he gets close to me and shakes my hand and says 'mate, you're starting'. I literally lit up. They'd all stitched me up."

Betham debuts only because James O'Connor, Digby Ioane, Henry Speight, Dom Shipperley, Nick Cummins, Rod Davies and Cam Crawford are all unavailable for one reason or another, but he hasn't wasted time thinking about that. "I'm trying to stay away from the fact that guys are injured and just focus on what I can bring to the team," he said. "If I had to pick any game of the whole year, I'd pick this game to have a crack at and I'm going to put my whole effort into it."

Wingers Unavailable For The Wallabies

  • Digby Ioane: shoulder injury, signed with Paris club Stade Francais
  • James O'Connor: suspended for continued misdemeanours
  • Joe Tomane: hamstring injury
  • Nick Cummins: broken hand
  • Chris Feauai-Sautia: hamstring injury
  • Drew Mitchell: playing in France after signing with Toulon
  • Dom Shipperley: shoulder surgery
  • Lachie Turner: season wiped out by leg injuries
  • Henry Speight: ineligible, residency issues yet to be resolved
  • Rod Davies: knee reconstruction

The path to the Wallabies hasn't been easy for the New Zealand-born, Australian-bred winger. He was battling for a Super Rugby contract just 12 months ago, after failed stints with the Brumbies, New South Wales Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels from 2008 to 2011, but he turn his career around with an eye-catching six-try season for Tasman in the 2012 ITM Cup; that form resulted in an upgraded contract with the Waratahs.

"Those setbacks earlier in my career really just made me sit back and mentally challenge myself," Betham said. "I wasn't a mature athlete and professional back then, I learned the hard way."

Betham said he was glad to be making his Test debut alongside Waratahs fullback and close friend Israel Folau.

"We pretty much came through the same road of doing Waratahs pre-season," he said. "We've gone from there, to trying to build a combination in the Super 15, so it will be really good having him out there."

Wallabies: Israel Folau; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Peter Betham; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper, Ben Mowen; James Horwill (captain), Rob Simmons; Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper. Replacements: Saia Fainga'a, Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Sitaleki Timani, Dave Dennis, Nic White, Mike Harris, Bernard Foley.

Follow live text commentary of the Bledisloe Cup Test between New Zealand and Australia on Saturday, October 19 from 7pm (NZDT), 5pm (AEDT) and 6am (GMT)

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