Two Guinness Six Nations stars make their return from massive injury layoffs this evening, with Justin Tipuric and Jake Polledri both featuring for their clubs in pre-season friendlies.
Welsh openside Tipuric has been out of action for 14 months after shattering his scapula on his third British and Irish Lions Tour in 2021.
The 33-year-old was named in Ospreys’ 29-man squad to face Northampton Saints at the Brewery Field.
Polledri has endured an even longer spell on the sidelines, and is set to make his return to action after injuring his knee in November 2020.
Nerve damage complicated the Italian flanker’s recovery, but the 26-year-old is thrilled to finally hear the Kingsholm crowd when Gloucester United welcome Hartpury.
“I am unbelievably excited to get back out there, I can’t wait to hear the place absolutely roaring,” said Polledri.
“It has obviously been a long time for me and a long, slow process given the extent of the injury but we are at the end of it now.
“There have been some dark times but the light it at the end of the tunnel and to be out here on the Kingsholm pitch, in kit, game ready. I am just buzzing.
“When you have so much time off you can improve on so many different things you don’t normally improve on,” Polledri told BBC Radio Gloucestershire.
“I’ve had two years to better myself, as such. Whether that’s mentally, physically, things off the game, watching, analysis, stuff like that. I’ve had a long time to be able to do that so hopefully [I can perform] even better.”
Both players face tough battles to regain their starting spots, with Tommy Reffell impressing for Wales and new Gloucester signing Albert Tuisue in fine form for Fiji.
But Wales legend Shane Williams backs Tipuric to challenge the Leicester Tigers’ loose forward.
“As far as I’m concerned, he is one of the world’s greatest players, but it will be interesting to see if he goes straight back into Pivac’s starting XV for their next Test match against New Zealand in November,” said Williams.
“Make no bones about it, the Pencoed product [Reffell] is the man in possession of the No. 7 jersey, and the onus is very much on Tipuric to win back his shirt.
“But Tipuric’s all-round game is phenomenal, and his overall contribution is too great to ignore, be it his ability at the lineout, his class in open play, his faultless defence, and his experience.”