Hunt relegates Folau to wing for Barbarians clash
KARMICHAEL Hunt has been given the Wallabies' fullback role against the Barbarians, in a clear sign coach Michael Cheika will use the former NRL and AFL star there during the spring tour in absence of Israel Folau.
Folau has been shifted to the wing for his final appearance in Wallaby gold this year before his sabbatical, and it appears one triple-code star will be replaced by another in the key No.15 jersey for the northern Tests.
In other developments for this non-Test fixture against Alan Jones' invitational side, Ben McCalman makes his long-awaited return to the Australian team off the bench, while veteran Nick Phipps will captain the Wallabies in absence of Michael Hooper.
But it is the selection of Hunt at fullback that is most intriguing, with the Wallabies jetting off for Japan and the United Kingdom after this fixture missing their top try-scorer in Folau.
Reece Hodge, who was not considered for this Barbarians game due to a high workload, is another candidate to fill the fullback role.
But if Hunt can impress in Saturday's match at Allianz Stadium, it may convince Cheika to keep him for the games against Japan, Wales, England and Scotland and leave Hodge on the wing where he has starred this year.
Hunt spent most of his NRL career at fullback and also played much of the season at Queensland Reds there this year so he will be comfortable, despite playing his three Tests for the Wallabies at inside centre in June.
Cheika has rested a number of regular starters for this game but has still selected a strong side that includes regular Test players Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Ned Hanigan, Jack Dempsey, Lopeti Timani, Phipps, Folau, Samu Kerevi and Henry Speight in the starting team.
Impressive rookie Lukhan Tui will partner Arnold at lock while exciting hooking prospect Jordan Uelese gets a start.
As expected, Duncan Paia'aua wears No.10 against his Reds teammate Quade Cooper, who will captain the Barbarians.
Bill Meakes, who spent the entire Rugby Championship campaign in the Wallabies squad without getting a game, has been handed the No.12 jersey in place of the rested Kurtley Beale.
McCalman returns to the Wallabies fold after numerous injury woes, while Kane Douglas is also on the bench as lock cover, and explosive youngster Izaia Perese will be used as outside back cover along with Curtis Rona.
15. Karmichael Hunt 14. Henry Speight 13. Samu Kerevi (vice-captain) 12. Billy Meakes 11. Israel Folau 10. Duncan Paia'aua 9. Nick Phipps (captain) 8. Lopeti Timani 7. Jack Dempsey 6. Ned Hanigan 5. Lukhan Tui 4. Rory Arnold 3. Allan Alaalatoa (vice-captain) 2. Jordan Uelese 1. Tom Robertson.
Reserves: 16. Stephen Moore 17. Tetera Faulkner 18. Jermaine Ainsley 19. Kane Douglas 20. Ben McCalman 21. Joe Powell 22. Curtis Rona 23. Izaia Perese.