Force sign Dunning to Super 14 deal - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Force sign Dunning to Super 14 deal

By Justin Chadwick 15/06/2009 06:20:25 PM Comments (0)

The Western Force completed another part of their 2010 playing puzzle by securing Wallabies prop Matt Dunning to a two-year deal but the two most important parts of the jigsaw remain incomplete.

Lions five-eighth and former Springbok Andre Pretorius has been sent a contract but is yet to sign on the dotted line, while teenage sensation James O'Connor will wait until the Force secure their No.10 before making a decision on his own future.

While the Brumbies insist they are now only an outside chance to snare O'Connor, the Canberra-based club is still well in the mix, especially if the Force fail to secure a sufficient replacement for Matt Giteau.

Stormers flyhalf Peter Grant was the Force's first choice, but his decision to join France's Racing Metro instead means 31-Test veteran Pretorius is now the No.1 target.

The Force expect a decision from Pretorius one way or the other by the end of the week.

O'Connor, who is also in contract negotiations with the Australian Rugby Union, has made an impressive start to his Wallabies career.

His value no doubt soared following Saturday's scintillating performance against Italy, when he scored a hat-trick of tries in his run-on debut.

Meanwhile, the addition of 30-year-old Dunning, who notched 90 Super Rugby appearances for the Waratahs, is a major coup for the Force.

Dunning was forced to sit out the entire 2009 season after tearing his Achilles tendon while playing for the Wallabies last November.

But the 43-Test veteran is eyeing a return to the Wallabies fold for the upcoming Tri-Nations series after making a successful return to club rugby ranks in recent weeks.

"I'm happy that I'm feeling improvements with every game and I'm still very much hoping to be part of the Wallabies this year," Dunning said.

"The driving force behind playing rugby is to play at the international level.

"My goal is to get back into the national squad for the Tri-Nations series this year."

Dunning, who also signed a new two-year deal with the ARU, said the Force's recruitment of former Hurricanes prop Tim Fairbrother played a big part in his decision to come to Perth.

"He's a quality prop and I'm a big believer that you need two good tightheads in your squad," he said.

The Force are hopeful of securing young hooker Damien Fitzpatrick following the departure of veteran Tai McIsaac to Japan.

Dunning, who played most of his career in the loosehead position, said he wanted to make a name for himself at tighthead after making a successful switch there in 2008.

"I've focused solely on tighthead since about round four of the 2008 Super 14 season and have enjoyed the switch," he said.

"I'll always have the ability to play loosehead but it's a challenge that I'm still enjoying and I want to continue at tighthead."

Force rugby manager Mitch Hardy said Dunning's experience would prove vital for the rebuilding team.

"He's been involved in two World Cups and has spearheaded a very good Waratahs scrum for the best part of a decade," Hardy said.

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