Hunt firms for fullback role as ‘Izzy’ takes a spell
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia coach Michael Cheika has named Karmichael Hunt at fullback for Saturday’s match against the Barbarians in Sydney and said the dual code international has a strong claim to the position while Israel Folau takes a sabbatical.
Rugby league convert Hunt has played mostly at fullback for the Queensland Reds but made a surprise Wallabies debut at inside centre against Fiji in June and impressed in his other two appearances against Scotland and Italy.
Hunt missed the Rugby Championship and final Bledisloe Cup test against the All Blacks last week due to an ankle injury, with Kurtley Beale taking the number 12 position in his absence.
However, he will return to Wallabies colours for the Barbarians game at Sydney Football Stadium and may be hard to budge during the northern hemisphere tour of Japan and Europe, Cheika said.
“He’s got the inside running, hasn’t he?,” Cheika told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.
”This is a chance for him and he knows the sort of role he needs to play there.
“It will be a little bit different to Israel’s role and there will be some different things he will do, but all in all I think from June he merits the opportunity to have a first crack at it, even though it may not be in the position that he played in June.”
Folau will play on the wing on Saturday, his last match of a prolific season that has yielded an Australian record of 12 tries in his last 10 tests.
The uncapped Billy Meakes has been named at inside centre in the Nick Phipps-captained team with Beale and a raft of other starters rested in the wake of their 23-18 upset victory over the All Blacks in Brisbane last weekend.
Ben McCalman, the all-but forgotten loose forward of Australian rugby, returns to the national fold after a horror run of shoulder injuries and has been named on the bench with former captain and hooker Stephen Moore.
Rookie Duncan Paia‘aua will be starting flyhalf against his Queensland Reds team mate and former Wallabies number 10 Quade Cooper.
Unbeaten in five tests, the resurgent Wallabies will look to produce a convincing win over the invitational side, being guided by former Australia coach Alan Jones, before they kick off their northern hemisphere tour against Japan in Yokohama on Nov. 4.
Team: 15-Karmichael Hunt, 14-Henry Speight, 13-Samu Kerevi, 12-Billy Meakes, 11-Israel Folau, 10-Duncan Paia‘aua, 9-Nick Phipps (capt), 8-Lopeti Timani, 7-Jack Dempsey, 6-Ned Hanigan, 5-Lukhan Tui, 4-Rory Arnold, 3-Allan Alaalatoa, 2-Jordan Uelese, 1-Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16-Stephen Moore, 17-Tetera Faulkner, 18-Jermaine Ainsley, 19-Kane Douglas, 20-Ben McCalman, 21-Joe Powell, 22-Curtis Rona, 23-Izaia Perese