Nikki Walker has joined the rest of the squad for pre-season training after missing the final five months of last season with a hamstring injury picked up in December"â¬â¢s Heineken Cup win over Treviso at the Liberty Stadium.
The Scottish winger was forced to undergo surgery to repair a muscle tear, ruling him out of action of the duration of the campaign, but he has worked hard on his rehab to ensure that he reported back for pre-season training in prime condition and raring to go.
Having spent all of 2009 on the sidelines he says that he is just pleased to be back in contention, and he is enjoying his pre-season even if it is harder than usual because of his time out of action. He commented:
"I'm happy to be back in training, I was out for six months which is a pretty long time to be out of action but I'm feeling pretty good at the moment and I'm enjoying being able to participate fully with the guys. The target was always to step up my rehab in time to be available to take a full part in pre-season so it's pleasing to be involved on schedule.
"Pre-season is always pretty tough and it's been quite hard getting into it, as it's a real step up from what I've been doing in rehab, but I'm enjoying it, I'm just glad to be backup and running properly. It's always an exciting time for a professional sportsman, it's when optimism is at its highest and there's always a buzz about the place. That's especially the case this year, we've got new boys in who have brought a bit of a spark and Scott Johnson has changed a few things around as well so the atmosphere around the place is great.
"When you've been out injured it's easy to lift yourself again, I'm excited about the coming season and hopefully getting a good year under my belt. I don't want to set any targets or goals, other than I just want to be in the team. If or when I achieve that, then I will have to play well enough to stay in there, as the competition is pretty tough. It's not easy to force your way into the Ospreys team, particularly after being out with injury. If I can achieve that I'll be pleased, I'll know that my performance levels are of an acceptable standard and the possibility of getting back into the Scottish squad will be there, but only if I've reached the required standards here at the Ospreys."
Watching from the sidelines, Walker saw Tommy Bowe and Shane Williams, his rivals for a place on the wing at the Ospreys, play themselves into the British & Irish Lions squad for the tour to South Africa, and he says that he's looking forward to doing battle with them in the coming months:
"I thought Tommy had an exceptional tour, while Shane really showed what he is capable of in the final test. I think he should have been picked earlier, but when he got the chance he really did make an impression. I think it's great for the Ospreys and for us as individual players to be competing for a place. There are plenty of matches and opportunities for us throughout the season, but we know that we have to be at the top of our games if we want to involved in the big games. There's a possibility that we could all play together, it happened last season when Tommy played at 13, but I'm sure there are plenty of guys in the squad who would have something to say about it as they want that shirt themselves. The competition is great as it keeps standards high throughout the squad and drives players on to constantly look to improve their game, which has to be a good thing."