Lydiate makes long awaited return with brilliant cameo

Dan Lydiate 7/2/2021
It may have been the first fallow weekend in the 2022 Guinness Six Nations but a host of international stars were at the forefront of the domestic action.

It may have been the first fallow weekend in the 2022 Guinness Six Nations but a host of international stars were at the forefront of the domestic action.

Ahead of Round 3 next week, a number of nations allowed players to return to their clubs across the Premiership, United Rugby Championship and Top14.

Here are some of the main talking points from this weekend’s domestic action.

Away from Guinness Six Nations action this week, Wales were given a further boost after their win over Scotland in Round 2, after an impressive return from Dan Lydiate.

The 2012 Player of the Championship, who helped his country secure the Grand Slam in 2012, was back in action for Ospreys in their 29-7 United Rugby Championship defeat to Leinster on Saturday.

It was in last year’s Championship that Lydiate suffered a significant injury, damaging his anterior cruciate ligament just 12 minutes into the win over Ireland.

The 34-year-old was at the time only just making his return to the international scene after over two years away.

But the blindside flanker vowed to return stronger and finally was able to step back onto a pitch in Dublin this weekend.

He certainly hasn’t lost his physical edge during his time out on the side-lines.

In a 26-minute appearance he managed to make nine successful tackles without putting a foot wrong, including three inside a short 11-second burst.

England prop Joe Marler managed to get some game time under his belt for club side Harlequins in their 29-24 Premiership victory over Wasps.

He was released from the national squad to join back up with Quins earlier this week and it proved a good decision, as the 31-year-old helped his team dominate the Wasps scrum.

Marler has taken to the field in both of England’s opening games of the Championship, the loss at BT Murrayfield against Scotland in Round 1 and last Sunday’s victory over Italy, but only for cameo appearances on both occasions.

He managed 68 minutes of the Quins victory, their first in four games, and his performance will give England coach Eddie Jones some food for thought.

It wasn’t the only positive from the Twickenham Stoop for England, who are currently second in the Championship table after the opening two games.

Jack Willis came off the Wasps bench six minutes after the interval for his first appearance in a year.

The flanker had not been seen on a pitch since suffering an injury during England’s 41-18 victory over Italy in last year’s Championship.

Willis, who has won three international caps so far, produced a couple of turnovers at the breakdown and contributed to Wasps’ late surge to earn a losing bonus point in their 29-24 defeat.

Another player firmly on road to a full recovery from a long-term injury is Wales No.8 Taulupe Faletau.

He suffered an injury on the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa last summer, damaging his ankle.

But the 31-year-old moved a step closer to a return for his national side after playing a full 80 minutes for Bath, in their narrow defeat to Premiership leaders Leicester Tigers.

Despite his side going down 24-20, Faletau looked close to top form scoring a try and putting in a huge shift against a side who have dominated the majority of their league rivals this season.

This followed a 64-minute stint against Wasps in the previous round.

With his team facing a gigantic trip to Twickenham next week, Faletau may not be too far away from once again pulling on the red jersey.

Dave Heffernan was called up to the Ireland squad ahead of their trip to France last week after Rob Herring’s calf injury.

However, for the international rest week, the 31-year-old hooker was allowed to return to his club Connacht as they travelled to Welsh side Scarlets in the United Rugby Championship.

And it ended up being a historic night for the Irish outfit, who triumphed 29-23 for their first ever win at Parc y Scarlets with Heffernan helping with a big performance.

Fly-half Jack Carty kicked four penalties which on top of three tries, secured a vital success for Heffernan’s team.

For the beaten Scarlets Kieran Hardy, who scored in last year’s Championship win over England, was a replacement after he was released from the Wales squad by head coach Wayne Pivac for the weekend.