MARLAND Yarde has endured “the longest pre-season ever” in a bid to defy predictions and return to full fitness in time for the start of the new Premiership season.
The 13-cap winger was in the form of his life last October when a catastrophic knee injury in the latter stages of Sale’s match against Newcastle cut him down in his prime.
It was a bitter blow, especially with World Cup year just around the corner, and the 27-year-old faced up to 18 months out.
The fact he has reduced that worst-case recovery time forecast in half says much about his determination and the level of medical care afforded to him at Carrington.
Yarde is now relishing the chance to do what he does best – beat defenders and score tries. “Doing all four of my ligaments was pretty hard but things happen for a reason and I’ve taken the positives out of it,” he said.
“The first few days I was pretty down but I just had to get my head around the situation quickly. I’ve had to graft really hard and find a new part of myself that I never realised I had to get back to where I am.
“Ever since I started running again in May, it’s been pretty full on. It feels like the longest pre-season ever, but I’ve needed it. I’ve had great support from the medical staff. I was supposed to be out for 12-18 months so to be back training after nine was massive.
“A lot of my team-mates and coaches can’t believe how quickly and how well I’ve come back. But I always believed in myself, that I would get back to the levels I wanted to. I’m still not the complete article. Two to three months of playing will put me in good stead.”
Yarde also worked with Philadelphia-based world-renowned knee specialist, Bill Knowles, who has treated rugby royalty such as 2003 World Cup winners Richard Hill and Lawrence Dallaglio.
Yarde adds: “The experts that I have worked with have worked hard to make sure I don’t have any reoccurring problems with the knee. I’ve been taught a lot of new techniques with the way to warm-up, stuff to do in the gym alongside my programme and stuff to do at home.
“Every day that goes by I am getting better and better. I couldn’t be more pleased with where I am.
“I always said the hard graft and pain was going to pay off and now I’m seeing the benefits and I am excited and buzzing to be back on the field.”
With Byron McGuigan missing out on Scotland’s World Cup squad and Denny Solomona and Chris Ashton out of favour with England, plus Simon Hammersley’s arrival from Newcastle, Yarde’s return to fitness further strengthens Steve Diamond’s back-three options.
At any other Premiership club, Yarde would be a shoo-in but he knows he will have to be on top of his game to make the line-up.
“The 12 months before my injury I was probably playing the best rugby of my career – 12 tries in 14 games,” he says. “But I’ve had to park the disappointment and now I’ve got to challenge the other guys just as they’ll be challenging me to make sure I am up to scratch.
“In any great team there has to be competition for places. If it’s easy, it’s not good, you are not going to get that extra ten per cent you need to perform to the highest level every week.
“If I continue to train hard and play to the best of my ability, to that international standard I set for myself, I have every chance of starting.”
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