Another Kangaroo goes on the hunt for Wallabies place

SYDNEY • Karmichael Hunt has not had the impact on rugby union that Israel Folau has but next month he might finally get his chance to join his fellow double code-hopper on the Test stage for the Wallabies.

Like Folau, Hunt was a stand-out rugby league international who became a marquee capture for Australian Rules football, before going on to make another switch to the 15-man game, in his case in 2014.

To say that Hunt's transition to the Queensland Reds was not smooth is something of an understatement, however, delayed as it was by his conviction for cocaine possession.

When he finally did get on the pitch, less-than-stellar performances in a struggling team meant it was a surprise to no one that he missed out on joining Folau in the Wallabies squad for the 2015 World Cup.

Australia coach Michael Cheika has always been a fan, however, and on Thursday the New Zealand-born 29-year-old was named in the 39-man training squad for June's three-Test series against England.

"Everything's happened the way it should have. It's as simple as that," Hunt said in Brisbane.

"As much as everyone that missed out on a World Cup last year would have loved to be involved, it's safe to say I wasn't ready."

Solid rather than sensational performances at full-back for a Reds side still trying to pull themselves out of a slump have followed this season.

Hunt has shown enough, though, to indicate to Cheika that he might be a solution to a specific problem facing the Wallabies ahead of the England series - the shortage of second playmakers to alternate with fly-half Bernard Foley.

With Matt Giteau still finishing off the French season with Toulon and injuries to Matt Toomua and Kurtley Beale, Australia's stock of experienced inside centres has been all but exhausted.

Hunt briefly played in the centres for French club Biarritz in 2009 but Cheika has suggested he might be able to fulfil the second playmaker role from full-back, depending on how his other selections pan out.

"I suppose we'll decide that on how he goes once he starts getting into the company of the players," Cheika said. "I think he has played really well this season. I won't say best form ever, but he's been really consistent. His support play, his dynamism in the game, his work rate... things we look for off the ball, a lot are there."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2016, with the headline 'Another Kangaroo goes on the hunt for Wallabies place'. Print Edition | Subscribe