Hunt to debut, Hooper to captain Wallabies against Fiji

International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Karmichael Hunt has gone from fringe fullback to Wallabies starting centre, named at 12 to face Fiji, in a team brimming with change.

Hunt has been one of the standouts for Queensland this season at fullback and was expected to play a utility-type role but has instead been thrown into the midfield. 

It's a place where Hunt played early on in his Reds journey, also spending time as a playmaker for Biarritz in the ProD2. 

Michael Hooper will captain the Wallabies against Fiji, with usual skipper Stephen Moore left out of the XV, in favour of Tatafu Polota-Nau.

Hooper is the only survivor from the last Wallabies forward pack lineup that played England in December, and one of just five from the run-on team that day to play against Fiji.

Michael Hooper will be Wallabies captain on Saturday afternoon. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyForce hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is lining up in the number two spot, a selection Cheika said was partly based on form, just a fortnight after publicly backing Moore to be the captain for all three June Tests.

"Tatafu has been challenging Stephen for the number two jersey for many years and his form has warranted his selection. Stephen is our captain and he'll be up to the challenge of what both Tatafu and Tolu will bring this series," he said.

"We're growing a young leadership team within our side and Michael is a key man in this. His leadership at the Tahs has been exceptional this year and we expect the same on Saturday for a big home Test against a very strong Fiji side."

Moore's omission is not the only front row surprise, with Brumbies prop Allan Alaalatoa preferred over Sekope Kepu to start in the clash.

Waratahs young gun Ned Hanigan has been named to debut at six after a whirlwind Super Rugby year, with Scott Higginbotham at No. 8 in his first Test since 2015.  

Higginbotham was not a part of any of Cheika's preliminary Wallabies camps but his form for Queensland has propelled him into the Wallabies fold for this Test.

Henry Speight's form has earned him a start against his nation of birth, with Dane Haylett-Petty keeping his spot on the other wing.

Ned Hanigan's whirlwind journey is set to take another step. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyIsrael Folau will remain at fullback for the Wallabies as well, after cementing himself back in the 15 spot this season.

Cheika said he had looked closely at single players' Super Rugby form in his picks for this opening Test, against what will likely be a young Fiji side.

"I have been very pleased with some of the individual performances this season and this has really been the basis of many of these selections," he said.

"It's been great to see the energy that Ned and Karmichael have brought this week. We know Test footy is a different beast and I know they have what it takes to step up."

The Wallabies take on Fiji on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm AEST.

TEAM

Wallabies XV to face Fiji

1. Tom Robertson (7 Tests)

2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (68 Tests)

3. Allan Alaalatoa (9 Tests)

4. Sam Carter (13 Tests)

5. Adam Coleman (9 Tests)

6. Ned Hanigan*

7. Michael Hooper (c) (65 Tests)

8. Scott Higginbotham (32 Tests)

9. Will Genia (75 Tests)

10. Bernard Foley (42 Tests)

11. Henry Speight (11 Tests)

12. Karmichael Hunt*

13. Tevita Kuridrani (45 Tests)

14. Dane Haylett-Petty (14 Tests)

15. Israel Folau (52 Tests)

* denotes debutant

Reserves to be named on Friday

The Wallabies take on Fiji on Saturday at AAMI Park, kicking off at 3pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS.

Join the discussion

Advertisement