Dunning close to being a real Force soon

Wallaby and Waratahs prop Matt Dunning is reported to be close to agreeing to terms with the Western Force after the Waratahs rejected his request for a one-year contract with a one-year option.

Other players who will be coming off contract have asked to be in a similar arrangement so that they have the option of joining the new Super 15 expansion club for its inaugural season in 2011, but Dunning asked for it so that he could bring up a century of games for the Waratahs without being locked into an extended period on the bench.

“If anyone deserves to bring up his hundred, it is Matt Dunning,” NSW chief executive Jim L’Estrange told the Australian yesterday.

“He was injured (with a snapped achilles tendon) all of the 2009 season, stranded on 99.

“But he has to make the decision that is best for him. He desperately wants to get back into the gold jersey again and he knows he’s still good enough to be playing for the Wallabies.

“So he has to go to where he thinks he can generate the game time to give him the best chance of getting back into the Australian side. We’re hoping he decides his best chance is with the Waratahs.”


“The reality is that we have a portfolio of quality props, Al Baxter, Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu and Dan Palmer.

“I’m not saying any of them rank ahead of Matt, but they can’t all run on at the same time. And Matt knows that.”

L’Estrange added that the Waratahs were not interested in signing Dunning just for the 2010 season.


“Matt is a key player for us over the next two seasons. We have our succession planning to do and if he is going to be here, we want him for two years.”


Force officials were guardedly optimistic yesterday they could resolve the few remaining minor obstacles standing between them and Dunning’s signature.


Indications are that if Dunning was to join the Force, he would leave his family behind in Sydney, at least initially, and so is hoping to delay the move to Perth for as long as possible.


If Dunning does opt to join the Force, it could trigger a double blow to the Waratahs because it would provide third-choice NSW hooker Damien Fitzpatrick with a further incentive to go to WA, knowing he would be guaranteed quality front-row support.


The Force already boasts one Wallabies squad front-rower in Pek Cowan and has just signed Tim Fairbrother from the Hurricanes, but the capture of Dunning might just be enough to tip Fitzpatrick’s decision in Perth’s favour.

L’Estrange was unable to make Fitzpatrick, who is with the Australian under-20 side at the junior World Cup in Japan, any guarantees he would receive consistent game time if he remained with the Waratahs.

“We’ve got two hookers signed and at this stage he won’t be ahead of Adam Freier or Tatafu Polota-Nau,” L’Estrange said.


“We’re pushing hard to keep him because we believe it will be best for his long-term rugby development to stay with NSW. We’re very hopeful.”

So too are the Western Force, but it seems both franchises will be kept waiting until Fitzpatrick returns from Japan.

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