Beale and Hunt picked in first Wallabies team together to face Wales
CARDIFF: Kurtley Beale and Karmichael Hunt will play their first Wallabies Test together when tackle Wales on Saturday, while coach Michael Cheika confirmed Samu Kerevi has retained his starting spot after a two-try haul against Japan.
Before the spring tour, Cheika flagged Hunt as having the inside running to fill the void left by Israel Folau at fullback for the Wallabies’ last four matches of the year.
Had Hunt not injured his neck in the lead-up to the Japan game in Yokohama, he would have worn the No.15 jersey.
Instead, Beale stepped in, with Kerevi moving to No.12 in a game won by 33 points.
Hunt has been given the green light to play this weekend but Cheika has resisted the urge to put him in the starting team.
He will feature on a bench made up of five forwards and three backs, with Lopeti Timani getting the axe from among last week’s finishers.
Kerevi is the big winner in Cheika’s latest selections and will once again link up with Tevita Kuridrani in the midfield after the pair scored five tries between them in Japan.
“I thought he played really good on the weekend, to be honest,” said Cheika of Kerevi. “If Karmichael didn’t get injured in that week he probably would have started that game but Samu would have played as well so they both would have had a chance. As it was, he got an opportunity and I think he deserves another opportunity.
“He’s a very good player, Samu, and hasn’t had it all his way this year. I’m eager to see him fight back and try and get a spot in the team.”
Pressed on whether Beale would be ‘s fullback for the remaining Tests against England and Scotland, Cheika said nothing was set in stone.
“I think now we’re just doing what we need to per game,” Cheika said. “We’ll see who is where and available. We know a bit about what those guys can do in the different positions. We’ve got good options.
“Karmichael can set up at fullback, in the centres. Samu can go 12, 13. [Reece] Hodge can play pretty much anywhere. Beale has 12, 15, 10, if we need him. We’ve got the ability to move and match.”
The big positive for the Wallabies is they will have another 137 caps of experience in Will Genia and Bernard Foley returning.
Genia (calf) passed a fitness test on Tuesday, while Foley has overcome a bug that saw him miss his first game for since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Hodge returns to the wing, while Marika Koroibete has edged out Henry Speight for the other spot out wide.
“There was a lot happening last week,” Cheika said. “We lost a lot of players in that seven days between the Barbarians game and the tour as a whole, and those three players in the lead-up, but I thought the guys handled it pretty well in the end.
“A lot of young guys haven’t played Tests in the northern hemisphere. It’s good to have some experience around those guys.”
Hodge booted nine from nine attempts last week but Cheika said Foley, whose form has been up and down this year, would still be the team’s go-to man.
“We might have a look at Hodge maybe kicking the line kicks; I thought he did a good job on that,” Cheika said. “We’ll see how it pans out during the game but Foley will be doing the goal-kicking.”
Cheika has opted for an unchanged forward pack, which will have a big task ahead of them against a Welsh side determined to snap a 12-game losing streak against the ns.
Stephen Moore, Allan Alaalatoa, Tom Robertson, Matt Philip and Ben McCalman are the replacement forwards.
Wallabies XV to face Wales: Scott Sio, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Adam Coleman, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper, Sean McMahon, Will Genia, Bernard Foley, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani, Marika Koroibete, Kurtley Beale.
Bench: Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Matt Philip, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Karmichael Hunt, Henry Speight.