Michael Hooper can’t see anyone but Israel Folau as Wallabies’ fullback

By , Vince Rugari is a Roar Guru

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    Wallabies vice-captain Michael Hooper doesn’t expect Karmichael Hunt’s terrific Super Rugby form will be enough to dislodge Israel Folau from fullback.

    But Quade Cooper has urged selectors to give the code-hopper a shot in June’s internationals against Fiji, Scotland and Italy, predicting he will take his game to another level in the Test arena.

    Hunt is arguably the form Australian fullback and has been a consistent performer for the Queensland Reds, aggressive in his defence and relentless in his attacking support play.

    The 30-year-old has more line breaks, line break assists, try assists, offloads and tackles than Folau, who has played most of his rugby at outside centre for the Waratahs.

    “I’ve been impressed by Karmichael’s willingness and desire to play hard rugby,” Hooper said.

    “Particularly playing (against) him a couple weeks back, he was wanting to get involved, wanting to get his hands on the ball.

    “I’ve really been enjoying watching him play because you just want guys who are fronting up and just trying really hard.”

    With Dane Haylett-Petty racing the clock to be fit for next month’s Tests, it remains to be seen whether Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will stick with the incumbent Folau or reward Hunt with a start at fullback.

    “It goes back to the coaches and what they see,” Hooper said.

    “I know Izzy’s a very consistent performer and has been one of our best performers in the Wallaby jersey for however long now, so I’m not expecting things to change there.”

    If not fullback, Hunt looms as a solid bench utility option as he has previously played in the centres as well as five-eighth for the Reds, to varying degrees of success.

    Whatever the position, Cooper reckons he deserves to be in Australia’s best 23.

    “He’s got a lot more to give,” Cooper told AAP.

    “He’s one of those guys if there’s a big moment in the game, he’ll step up to it.

    “You put him in a gold jersey and he’s going to find even more in himself.

    “You can see he’s starting to play the game a phase ahead. He knows not only where the space is, but where the space is going to be.”

    The Reds have the bye this week and will face the Western Force at home and then the Blues in Samoa before Super Rugby’s international break.

    © AAP 2017