Prop Joe Rees says he’s hoping to stay injury free this season after he missed most of 2012/13 following neck surgery.
The tight-head, who turns 23 next month, featured regularly in the opening months of last season to build on a breakthrough year the previous campaign until sustaining a season ending injury in the win over Gloucester at the start of November.
Sidelined until mid-April, Rees was able to tentatively return to training in the closing weeks of the campaign, and now he is raring to go again having come through almost two whole months of pre-season work unscathed. He said:
“I was lucky enough to be back training fully with the squad over the last three weeks of last season. Although I wasn’t ready to play back then it was an important three weeks as I needed to get the all-clear from the medical team, and to get the confidence that you only get when you start taking hits for the first time, go into that first scrum.
“Starting back training wasn’t too difficult. What I found difficult to cope with was having to watch the boys training and playing week after week, feeling pretty useless and not being able to offer anything to the squad. That’s what I struggled with mentally, particularly in the beginning.
“Since we came back for pre-season after the break I’ve been fully integrated back into things. It seems to be going well so far, I’ve managed to get a bit more running under my belt and I seem to be holding up.”
With the Ospreys’ tight-head stocks looking particularly healthy Rees faces a real challenge if he is to fully establish himself this season, a challenge he acknowledged as the opening game against Worcester on Saturday 24th August draws closer.
“Touch wood I can stay fully fit and hopefully challenge for a place in the team this season” said Rees.
“I’m really enjoying being part of the squad again and looking forward to hopefully having an impact.
“I played quite a bit of rugby the season before last and was fortunate enough to test myself against some good players. The Northampton game in Bridgend stands out, and I want to be able to get more experiences like that this season.
“There’s a lot of good players here in my position so I know that it won’t be easy to establish myself but I’ve got to give it my best shot. Consistency is the key for me now. I’ve got to work hard in training, get some good performances in if I get the chance which the management and players will be happy with, and hopefully I can add something to the squad.”