Wallabies keeping fullback options open

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies are yet to make a call on who will replace Israel Folau in the fullback spot on Saturday.

Karmichael Hunt loomed as the frontrunner for the fullback, handed the 15 jersey for the Wallabies against the Barbarians, before being moved into the front line in the second half.

He and Kurtley Beale could play either 12 or 15, and in either situation would likely interchange between the two positions.

Attack coach Stephen Larkham said there was no concrete decision just yet, with the team to be named on Thursday.

“Nothing's set in stone at this stage,” he said in Japan on Wednesday.

“The three guys vying for the position at the moment with experience in that position - Reece Hodge, Karmichael Hunt and Kurtley Beale - we should get a better indication tomorrow as to which way we're going to go this weekend.”

Beale impressed as Folau’s understudy in the Rugby World Cup, playing as a utility off the bench in that tournament, but has been among the Wallabies’ best, playing at inside centre, since returning from England.

Kurtley Beale could yet switch into the fullback spot. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Wallabies have managed to string some stable pairings together in the backline this season, with their clash against Argentina the first unchanged XV in Michael Cheika’s tenure.

Larkham said they wanted to avoid disrupting that as much as they could in picking a team for Japan.

And, though, the combinations are beginning to solidify in Australia’s backline, Larkham hinted there may be more than just the straightforward change.

"I don't  think we are asking anything more of anyone else. Whoever steps in at fullback will have his roles and responsibilities out on the field," he said.

"When you lose a key player it does give a chance to someone else.

"We're building a really strong confident connection out on the field. It's always tough to break up that combination (with Folau) but it will be better in the long run if we can blood someone else in that position for a period of time.'

“I think what you'll find tomorrow is there'll be a few changes though.”

The Wallabies will name their team on Thursday for Saturday’s clash with Japan.

Australia takes on Japan on Saturday November 4, kicking off at 2:40pm local, 4:40pm AEDT LIVE on FOX SPORTS