Rugby Union: Hunter is back in the chase for England place: Lion returns to action for Northampton four months after injuring shoulder on New Zealand tour

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The Independent Online
IAN HUNTER, the wounded Lion who has been recuperating while Jonathan Callard has been making the running to succeed the retired Jon Webb as England's full-back, will make his long-awaited return for Northampton in tomorrow's First Division match at Bristol. A place against New Zealand at Twickenham on 27 November is the prize.

Hunter, 24, may have been out of sight while getting over the dislocated shoulder he suffered playing on the wing in the Lions' first tour match in New Zealand in May, but he has not been out of the selectors' mind. He - as well as Callard and another injured full-back contender, David Pears - was chosen, sight-unseen, in the squad of 46 named last month.

Hunter proved his fitness when he scored three tries and kicked some goals in a second- team game on Tuesday. 'I'd be lying if I said I hadn't been hesitant but I came through fine,' he said yesterday. 'I took hit after hit on my shoulder.'

All he wants is an injury- free run, a reasonable desire after being constantly afflicted last season. First there was a knee operation, then a freakish leg injury sustained playing football. He scratched an eyeball against Wales and finally dislocated his shoulder for the Lions against North Auckland. 'It was the most painful thing I've ever done,' he said.

Callard will play in a head protector for Bath against Gloucester tomorrow to cover the scalp wound that required 15 stitches at Orrell last week. Tony Swift, the prolific former England wing, has a leg injury which causes him to miss a league game for the first time since 1988.

Pears, who has an injury history as unfortunate as Hunter's, is in light training after damaging knee ligaments.