Hunt 'genuinely in the frame' for Wallabies: Cheika

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by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says Karmichael Hunt is ‘genuinely in the frame’ for a Test debut in June.

Though he was still keeping his cards close to his chest as to whether the former NRL and AFL star would overtake Israel Folau as first-choice fullback, the Wallabies coach said Hunt had gone from cross-code curiosity to serious Test chance.

“Hunt has improved out of sight this year,” he said on FOX SPORTS' Kick and Chase.

“The energy he’s put into the game, just his aggression and his attitude has been quite inspiring for the other fellas who have been playing alongside him and he has really put himself into the frame, more than.

“We had him there or thereabouts just to have a look at him but now he’s genuinely in the frame.”

He’s not the only uncapped Queenslander Cheika is looking at, though, with Campbell Magnay and Izaia Perece handful of their rookies in his sights as well.

Perese would be long odds to make his debut in June, though, given his release for the Australia U20s World Championship in Georgia, which overlaps with the Tests.

“I’m very keen to see Campbell Magnay - he’s a big lad, he’s got good qualities around his attack and his defence, Izaia perese has been outstanding for the Reds, he’s off to the 20s now and then you’ve also got Andrew Kellaway who’s been out of sorts but brought on tour  and he’s a player we’ve got high hopes for as well."

Richard Hardwick has impressed Michael Cheika. Photo: Getty ImagesCheika also gave a ringing endorsement to Western Force no. 8 Richard Hardwick.

Cheika has made no secret of his fondness for the Super Rugby rookie, who was a standout in the NRC last season, saying last month that the Force backrower had gone from fringe squad player to serious contender.

“He’s worked his way into the squad, and I’ve only met him a couple of times now,” he said.

“If you just looked at the game on Sunday morning against the Jaguares, he was in the middle of everything...and I like that.”

The Wallabies mentor also threw youngsters Adam Korczyk, Ned Hanigan and Jack Dempsey into the mix.

Dempsey is still working his way back from a foot injury but is expected to be available for at least part of the June Series.

The Wallabies coach revealed Scott Higginbotham, who has provided a spark for the Reds this season, hadn’t been in any of his squads this season but his attitude despite that proved his character.

“Scott Higginbotham hasn’t been in the squads we’ve had lurking around but what I have liked about him is he’s kept his chin up, hasn’t sulked and he’s got on with playing footy.”