Karmichael Hunt passes the ball during a training session as the Wallabies prepare to take on Japan.
Karmichael Hunt passes the ball during a training session as the Wallabies prepare to take on Japan. DAVE HUNT

Karmichael in hunt for Wallabies fullback role

RUGBY UNION: The hunt for a new Wallabies fullback has begun in earnest with coach Michael Cheika determined to improve player depth in key positions as he builds towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The Wallabies will launch their four-game tour on Saturday against Japan in Yokohama and Cheika will use the opportunity to identify a replacement for the missing Israel Folau who has opted out of the end-of-season campaign.

Queensland Reds utility back Karmichael Hunt, Kurtley Beale and Reece Hodge have all been touted as potential replacements.

Hunt has the inside running after starting at fullback against the Barbarians in Sydney last weekend but the Wallabies haven't ruled out playing him at inside centre with Beale moving to the back.

Kurtley Beale (centre) is a chance to wear the Wallabies No.15 jersey.
Kurtley Beale (centre) is a chance to wear the Wallabies No.15 jersey. DANIEL MUNOZ

Wallabies assistant coach Stephen Larkham said while it would be a tough call, the successful candidate would be given the chance to make the No.15 jersey his own.

"We've been building a really strong, confident connection so it's tough to break up that combination but it's going to be better in the long term if we can blood someone else in that position for a period of time,” he said after the team's arrival in Japan on Wednesday.

"This is a four-game tournament for us now and we want to get our combination right this weekend so we're going to put our best combination out on the paddock.

"There are three guys vying for it and nothing is set in stone at this stage.”

Australia will name their team to play Japan after their training run on Thursday.

After the opening Test against the Cherry Blossoms in Japan, Australia take on Wales, England and Scotland.


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