Schwalger set for early return to Hurricanes

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 24/06/2013
John Schwalger
Getty Images
WELCOME RETURN: John Schwalger in action for the Hurricanes.

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Former All Black prop John Schwalger has been cleared by the New Zealand Rugby Union to play the remaining three rounds of Super Rugby.

Schwalger will be available for the Hurricanes match against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday night and if selected would play his first competition match in New Zealand in three years.

The 28-year-old played 61 minutes for the Hurricanes during Friday's friendly match against the Crusaders in Levin, but was believed to be ineligible for the competition proper.

Sanzar recently denied the Chiefs clearance for former All Black centre Casey Laulala, who coach Dave Rennie had wanted to bring back from overseas as injury cover citing an April deadline.

However, Schwalger's case is different as he has re-signed with Wellington and the Hurricanes for the next two years and is based in New Zealand.

That would change in the unlikely event the Hurricanes reached the Super Rugby playoffs at which point the franchise would need Sanzar clearance.

Whatever the case, Schwalger's availability is timely for the Hurricanes who are without prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen due to a knee injury and already missing original selection Eric Sione, whose season ended before it really begun.

The Hurricanes have three available props in Ben Franks, Ben May and Reggie Goodes, but nobody else and have had Schwalger filling in at training for the past few weeks.

New Zealand under-20s prop Donald Brighouse is promising, but probably too young, while mobile former North Harbour prop Chris Eves from the Wests Roosters is also injured.

One player who won't be returning this season is second five-eighth Tim Bateman who has been ruled out with a posterior cruciate ligament injury suffered playing for Old Boys University in club rugby two weeks ago.

The Hurricanes re-enter Super Rugby on something of a high after their 38-17 win over the Crusaders in Levin.

Hammett said it showed his players' hearts and minds were still engaged after three weeks off.

"We have [used our time well]. Also over the past week we asked ourselves; ‘Are we giving enough? Are we still up for it?"' Hammett said.

"Tonight was going to be a good indicator of that and I thought we saw we are up for it."

Hammett wasn't aware the win was his third straight against his old team this year, but made it clear the season finale in Christchurch was the one that mattered.

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- The Dominion Post

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