Hunt has 'inside running' for Wallabies fullback spot

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says Karmichael Hunt has the 'inside running' for the open fullback spot on this year's Spring Tour.

Cheika named Hunt at 15 and shifted Folau onto the wing for the first time since his debut 2013 season for the Barbarians clash, naming a reshuffled side for what is shaping up as a Spring TOur audition for players on both sides.

On Hunt's prospects of starting at fullback against Japan, Cheika was rank.

"He's got the inside running, hasn't he?," he said 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."

Cheika said a desire to give Billy Meakes a run at inside centre after sitting on the squad's fringes in the Rugby Championship was a key part of that Hunt decision as well. 

"Billy has really been training hard and working hard in that spot and I think it is going to be good, an exciting back three and they've been enjoying themselves this week, working together for the first time in that capacity," he said.

Nick Phipps will captaina new-look backline at Allianz on Saturday, in the Wallabies' second clash with the Barbarians on home soil. 

Cheika has also backed Duncan Paia'aua at flyhalf for the match, pitting the 22-year-old up against his Reds teammate Quade Cooper.

Cheika said he had complete faith in Paia'aua to steer the team on Saturday.

"It's going to be a challenge for him, no doubt about it," he said.

"But I really enjoy the way he takes the ball to the line. 

"He has played more 12, obviously, so it is a bit of a test run for us in that regard.

"There is no way he would have even been considered if we didn't think he could run the game

"He won't be perfect early on because he is new to that role and we don't expect it to be perfect.

"We just want him to do what he does and he will have a lot of strike power around him.

"We just have to get him to shift the ball around a little bit as well as challenge the line himself."

Both Rory Arnold and Allan Alaalatoa had the prospect of going head-to-head with the brothers, Richie and Mike, but the latter was unable to be cleated by the Crusaders.

The Wallabies take on the Barbarians on Saturday at Allianz Stadium, kicking off at 3pm AEDT LIVE on FOX SPORTS.


Wallabies team to take on the Barbarians 

1. Tom Robertson (NSW Waratahs)

2. Jordan Uelese (Melbourne Rebels)

3. Allan Alaalatoa (vc) (Brumbies)

4. Rory Arnold (Brumbies)

5. Lukhan Tui (Queensland Reds)

6. Ned Hanigan (NSW Waratahs)

7. Jack Dempsey (NSW Waratahs)

8. Lopeti Timani (Melbourne Rebels)

9. Nick Phipps (c) (NSW Waratahs)

10. Duncan Paia'aua (Queensland Reds)

11. Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs)

12. Billy Meakes (Western Force)

13. Samu Kerevi (vc) (Queensland Reds)

14. Henry Speight (Brumbies)

15. Karmichael Hunt (Queensland Reds)


16. Stephen Moore (Queensland Reds)

17. Tetera Faulkner (Melbourne Rebels)

18. Jermaine Ainsley (Melbourne Rebels)

19. Kane Douglas (Queensland Reds)

20. Ben McCalman (Western Force)

21. Joe Powell (Brumbies)

22. Curtis Rona (Western Force)

23. Izaia Perese (Queensland Reds)