Western Force prop Tetera Faulkner will feature for the side for the first time this season when they face the Hurricanes on Friday.
The tighthead suffered the MCL injury to his knee during the pre-season and wasn’t scheduled to return for a number of weeks, but the 45-times capped prop has been dedicated to his rehab under the watchful eye of the team’s medical staff and is ready to go for Round Four.
The 27-year-old was one of the Western Force’s most consistent performers in the 2015 season playing in all of the side’s matches and will bring a wealth of experience back to the front-row.
Faulkner said he can’t wait to get back out on the field against the Hurricanes this week.
“It’s really exciting to be named in the side for this week,” he said.
"No one likes to be doing rehab while your teammates are playing and training so I can’t wait to get back out there with boys and run around.”
“It has been tough to watch the guys run out in the first few rounds of the season because I wanted to be out there so badly but injury is a part of the game so you get over it. If anything watching the guys in the first three matches just made me push myself harder in rehab to get myself right so I could get back on the park.”
After going down with injury along with fellow prop Francois Van Wyk, Faulkner has praised the efforts of youngsters Jermaine Ainsley and Guy Millar.
“Both of those guys have really stepped it up to another level. They have come a long way even since the start of preseason. They got their opportunity and took it with both hands. That experience for them just grows our depth and it’s good for me because they have set the bench mark and now I have to go in and raise it even higher.”
Coming up against the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Highlanders Faulkner says the front-row is up and about for a big couple of weeks.
“Obviously it is a big challenge up against some quality front-rowers. We thought we really did well at the set-piece in the first week and then took a step back in the last two rounds. Now we coming up against some really quality opposition and we want to really attack the scrum and lineout.
“We know that we can perform well at the set-piece as we saw against the Rebels. So it’s just all about consistency and backing up. We just need to be mentally switched on and focused for every scrum and every lineout.”
Western Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Solomoni (Junior Rasolea), 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan
Replacements: 16 Chris Heiberg, 17 Heath Tessmann, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Sitiveni (Stevie) Mafi, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Albert Nikoro
Date: Friday, March 18
Venue: Central Energy Trust Arena, Palmerston North
Kick-off: 19:35 (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Referees: Ben O'Keeffe, Kane McBride
TMO: Shane McDermott