New Force prop Dunning just happy to be on park

NICK TAYLOR

Just over a year ago new Western Force signing Matt Dunning feared his career was over.

The burly prop had ruptured his right Achilles tendon during the 2008 Wallabies tour-ending game against the Barbarians at Wembley Stadium.

"When it snapped I thought that was it, it would be the end, it was all over," he said yesterday after his first training session with his new club.

"But then I saw the surgeon and he was positive he could get me back playing after about five months and that was it.

"I thought 'I can't give up now I've got to play'. It was play or just give up.

"I wanted to get back so fast but I couldn't push it hard."

The injury kept him out of the Waratahs last Super 14 season but after a good spell with his Sydney club Eastwood, Dunning, 32, forced his way back into the Wallabies for last year's northern hemisphere tour.

And now in Perth the 45-Test veteran is raring to go.

He has trimmed seven kilos from his frame and now plays at about 115kg, although he joked yesterday that he had already lost another kilo in Perth's heat since arriving on Sunday.

"I probably needed it so that's all right," he said.

While Dunning's preferred spot is tighthead, his ability to play on both sides of the scrum will be invaluable to the Force.

"I was carrying the extra weight in my first year at tighthead because I thought that would help. Now I've got better technique I decided I didn't need it," he said.

Dunning has signed a two-year deal with the Australian Rugby Union and has a one-year contract with the Force.

He said the move west was partly because he needed a change after 11 years playing for New South Wales.

"There was a big opportunity in coming to Perth," he said. "Now I just want to play. I'm keen to get into the competition."

And adding to his Test tally and a spot in the Wallabies World Cup squad is also firmly in his sights.

Dunning arrived early in Perth to get in a good two weeks training before the Force travel to South Africa for two trials.