The road to his rugby return was much longer than expected but that just made the destination all the sweeter, according to Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe.
Anscombe came through his first competitive action in more than two years unscathed as he completed 37 minutes of Ospreys’ pre-season friendly against Northampton Saints, before being substituted off as planned.
The performance came a mammoth 761 days after he initially injured his knee against England at Twickenham in August 2019, before aggravating the issue in October 2020 – causing a further year on the sidelines.
But the 30-year-old, who had joined Ospreys from Cardiff Blues in the summer of 2019, finally made his debut for the Swansea-based club as they lost 31-26 to the Saints.
Anscombe slotted a touchline conversion following Mat Protheroe’s early try and was ecstatic that everything went to plan in terms of his return.
“It’s been a long time coming, longer than I would have liked but to finally put on the boots and play 35 minutes is really pleasing,” said the Welshman.
“The knee has come out really well and hopefully it is the start of my journey with the Ospreys. All in all, I am pretty pleased and am just glad to get back out there.
“I never expected it to take this long, I don’t think anybody did. It’s been a long hard road and now I look forward to playing some rugby throughout the year and hopefully I can lead this Ospreys team around.”
Anscombe’s original injury came at the worst possible time, having just established himself as Wales’s first-choice No.10 during their Grand Slam success at the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.
He kicked 20 points during the memorable clean sweep-clinching victory over Ireland in Cardiff and will now look to play himself back into international contention for the 2022 Championship, three years on.
But after a winding road just to get back on the pitch, Anscombe was keen to show his gratitude to those who helped him along the way.
“It has been tricky, there have been so many ups and downs, it’s been so much longer than I thought originally,” added Anscombe.
“I have to thank a ton of people, there have been so many people behind the scenes who have worked long hours with myself. They have put up with me being pretty negative at times and pretty down.
“They are the guys I owe a lot of this to, while a lot of my family have been amazing by supporting me and given me a boost when I needed it because at times it was quite tough to see the light.
“I am thankful I have had such a strong network around me. The people with the Ospreys have been amazing and really supported my journey.
“I have had help from the Union (WRU) at times which has been nice and we are finally here. It’s been a combination of a lot of things.”