Karmichael in hunt for World Cup jersey
RUGBY UNION: Karmichael Hunt has been signed to a new two-year deal to reach the 2019 Rugby World Cup, with fingers crossed, because he's played just five of 28 possible Tests since first being ushered into Wallabies camp last year.
Groin, ankle and neck injuries have limited the dual international's time on the field but the Wallabies have enjoyed the high-intensity spark he offers whenever he has been involved.
Playing off the bench against Scotland at chilly Murrayfield on Sunday morning (AEDT) shapes as his final act of the season before a holiday and rejoining the Queensland Reds for pre-season training under new coach Brad Thorn.
Utility back Hunt will only be 32 when the World Cup in Japan swings around but his body is much older footy-wise considering the accumulated knocks from playing three codes at the highest level for 15 years.
That's the balancing act of this new deal. He's also played just 32 of the Reds' 46 Super Rugby games since 2015 so will the body hold together?
Admirably, Hunt never throws anything less than physical fury into any run or tackle and his front-on hit on Welsh centre star Jonathan Davies in open space in Cardiff was one of the more important stops of the tour.
As importantly, Hunt has quickly found a bond with his Wallabies teammates with Kurtley Beale spruiking the value he adds.
"I've always said in Test match footy you need creativity and to be able to add that extra spark in the final 20 minutes of matches," Beale said.
"K's got a great rugby brain, a really good outlook on how to manipulate defenders and his experience around the group is beneficial as well."
On balance, it's taken to this third year of Hunt's first three-year term in rugby to show the right reward for the big contract the Reds first brokered.
The upbeat outcome is that Hunt is still extremely motivated because he's only had a tantalising taste of action as a starting Wallaby and he's excited that the Reds are heading into their best season since 2013.
"It's been a big year for me personally. Obviously making my Wallabies debut was a huge honour but I really enjoyed getting some solid minutes up in Queensland with the Reds," Hunt said.
"There have been some challenges but I've been loving the journey to now.
"I definitely have my eyes on the World Cup in Japan. I think this Wallabies group is building something special and it's something I really want to be part of.
"I'm looking forward to getting stuck in with Thorny next year at the Reds too with a great mix of players."
Hunt's first-time appreciation of the variety to Test rugby in Europe and huge, partisan 70,000-plus crowds has soared.
"Definitely, it's one of the great aspects of the game because you are always going to get thrown something different, especially up north," Hunt said.
"They kick a lot up here so our preparation and our focus changes, compared to playing the NZ teams.
"You're always going to get the battles in rugby league where it's a huge physical contest and you have to pick teams apart with different plays but rugby union has so many different facets to it."