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Hunt, Hanigan selected in Wallabies XV to face Fiji

Associated Press logo Associated Press 9/06/2017

MELBOURNE, Australia — Ex-rugby league international Karmichael Hunt and backrower Ned Hanigan will make their tests debuts for Australia in Saturday's one-off match against Fiji

Coach Michael Cheika picked openside flanker Michael Hooper to lead the team after Tatafu Polota-Nau displaced regular skipper Stephen Moore at hooker in the starting lineup.

Hunt, who has played mainly at fullback since switching to the 15-a-side game following stints in rugby league and Australian rules football, will play at inside center to fill the void created when Samu Kerevi was ruled out with an injured ankle. Hunt played 11 rugby league tests and had a four-year stint in the AFL before switching to rugby union in 2015.

Fiji coach John McKee selected 121-kilogram (266-pound) inside center Jale Vatubua as one of three uncapped players in his lineup. Vatubua will be making his international start after starring in France's Top 14 competition with Pau.

The 25-year-old Vatubua will be joined by Rio Olympic sevens gold medalist Viliame Mata, who plays in Scotland, and prop Kalivati Tawake. Playmaker Ben Volavola of the Melbourne Rebels was named at flyhalf, where he played during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Queensland Reds backrower Scott Higginbotham, who last played for the Wallabies in July 2015 against South Africa, was recalled at No. 8 for Australia and Will Genia will return at scrumhalf following a season in France.

"I have been very pleased with some of the individual performances this season and this has really been the basis of many of these selections," Cheika said. "It's been great to see the energy that Ned and Karmichael have brought this week. We know test footy is a different beast and I know they have what it takes to step up.

"Tatafu (Polota-Nau) has been challenging Stephen (Moore) for the No. 2 jersey for many years and his form has warranted his selection."

Cheika delayed confirming his bench players until Friday, when he included 117-test veteran Moore among the replacements. Also among the reserves was 23-year-old scrumhalf Joe Powell, who could make his test debut.

World Cup finalist Australia will open its 2017 international schedule against Fiji and then play Scotland in Sydney and Italy in Brisbane on consecutive weekends.

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Lineups:

Australia: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Karmichael Hunt, Henry Speight, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper (captain), Ned Hanigan, Adam Coleman, Sam Carter, Alan Alaalatoa, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson. Reserves: Stephen Moore, Toby Smith, Sekope Kepu, Rory Arnold, Richard Hardwick, Joe Powell, Quade Cooper, Reece Hodge.

Fiji: Kini Murimurivalu, Timoci Nagusa, Albert Vulivuli, Jale Vatubua, Vereniki Goneva, Ben Volavola, Nikola Matawalu; Akapusi Qera (captain), Naulia Dawai, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Leone Nakarawa, Tevita Cavubati, Peni Ravai, Sunia Koto, Campese Maafu. Reserves: Tuapati Talemaitoga, Joeli Veitayaki, Kalivati Tawake, Api Ratuniyarawa, Viliame Mata, Nemani Nagusa, Seurpepeli Vularika, Benito Masilevu.

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