Hunt set to take Folau's Wallabies fullback jersey for Spring Tour
OPPORTUNITY knocks for a patient Karmichael Hunt, who is poised to become the chief beneficiary of Israel Folau's Spring break.
The three-code star has been a rugby player for three seasons now yet Hunt has pulled on the Wallabies jersey just three times with injuries, the Reds' team struggles and the form of rival players combining to limit his chances in the Test arena.
But it would appear that the pendulum of fortune is about to swing back in the 30-year-old's favour as coach Michael Cheika prepares to name his squad for the Spring Tour.
Folau's decision to rest and spend time with fiancee Maria Tutaia - on top of Dane Haylett-Petty's season-ending injury - leaves Hunt as the most obvious candidate to wear the Australian No 15 jumper in Tests against Japan (November 4), Wales (November 12), England (November 19) and Scotland (November 16).
Brave and oozing big-match temperament, Hunt started at inside centre in all three of the Wallabies' June Tests and played well before injury ruled him out of the Rugby Championship.
Kurtley Beale has since returned to take an iron grip on the No 12 jersey with some compelling play but using Beale's considerable strengths in tandem with Hunt's is a mouth-watering prospect.
"A blend of both 12 and 15 is what I enjoy," Hunt told rugby.com.au when asked for his preferred position.
"Obviously I play that sort of role up in Queensland where I'm attacking in the wider channels or looking for space as a 15, but also get to do what I enjoy most and that's defending in the front line.
"But we'll have to see what Cheik wants of me moving forward this week, first and foremost, and then if possible on tour.
"But those discussions will happen in the near future."
Folau will play his final game of the season against the Barbarians in Sydney on Saturday but Cheika said he was likely to experiment by trialling his try-scoring trump in a new position.
That leaves Hunt as a likely starter at fullback at Allianz Stadium as he steps up a return from injury that has included some physical performances in the NRC.
"It's an opportunity to show your skills so if the opportunity comes to me this weekend, I'll definitely be going out there and doing my best," Hunt said.
"I obviously play 15 up at Queensland for the Reds so I'm pretty familiar with that position.
"I played 12 in the June series so I've got a few positions that I can play, that I'm suited to.
"Obviously Cheik and the coaches make the call on who plays where, it's just up to us players to put our best foot forward and put our hand up to be selected."
Alan Jones' Barbarians squad is stacked with plenty of his Reds teammates and Hunt expected some spicy match-ups to unfold.
"It will be different," Hunt said.
"Obviously we oppose at training but it's never a physical contest, so to speak, not a proper rugby match.
"So to come up against the likes of Quade (Cooper), Ela (Taniela Tupou), Eto's (Nabuli) playing, Andrew Ready, a few of the guys that we really know quite well, it's going to be a lot of fun I think.
"There will be a few verbal barbs flying back and forth but that's all part of the game."
Other contenders for Folau's fullback jersey include Beale, Reece Hodge and wildcard Tom Banks but Cheika has already hinted Hunt is his man.
"He brings a big presence there and he's an experienced player, he's got X-factor," Cheika said.
"He's definitely a player I'd consider for that role."