Ospreys flanker Ben Lewis says his target this season is to cement a place in the regional first fifteen, after spending the past fourteen months watching from the stands.
Lewis, who impressed with three tries from his 16 starts in the 2007/8 campaign underwent reconstructive surgery to the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in April last year. However predictions of a six month lay off were more than doubled when complications lead to further hospitalisation for the 22-year-old.
Now fully fit and enjoying being a part of pre-season training with the squad, Lewis is keen to put his injury troubles behind him "I'm feeling pretty good about myself right now. I've been out for longer than a year and I've had quite a tough time of it but it's good to be back in full training and getting the ball in hand. I'm genuinely excited about the prospect of playing again."
After impressing in the 2007/8 season Lewis was being tipped to follow in the footsteps of fellow Academy products James Hook, Alun-Wyn Jones and Ian Evans into the national set-up, only for the injury to abruptly halt his progress. Looking ahead to the new season, And Lewis now says his target is to force his way back into the reckoning at the Ospreys. But the road to recovery has been long and winding, as Lewis explains. "When you suffer an injury you quickly focus on the return date and put all your efforts into meeting your targets along the way, and I was looking at six month lay-off, coming back in November or December last year. The initial op went well and it was all coming along nicely, but five months or so into it when I was just about to step it up I started suffering problems, It was the same symptoms as pre-op, I knew it wasn't right and had to seek medical help. "Now I want to get back playing as many games as I can in an Ospreys shirt, it's as simple as that. I want to try and carry on where I left off in April last year, it's difficult to target anything else given the length of time I've been out. I had a taste of regional rugby a couple of seasons ago and I was starting to build up a reputation for myself and now I have to do it all over again. I can't think about anything else, or pay attention to anything that's said or written about me coming back, the only thing I have to answer to is my own expectations. And the signs so far are good for Lewis, who said: "I've had a full pre-season, taken as much a part as anyone else, so hopefully I will be involved in the games against Leeds and Gloucester, and we'll see where I am then. I may be ready to go from there, or the coaches and physio's may think that I need a bit more game time under my belt before being considered for selection in competitive matches for the Ospreys."
WRU International Skills Coach Jason Strange is a busy man, combining the new role with that of Wales Under 20 attack coach, Ebbw Vale head coach and continuing to teach at Ebbw Fawr Learning Community.
Warren Gatland and Sam Warburton look ahead to this week's crunch RBS 6 Nations tie against France, where the Wales skipper in particular is keen to make his mark, as Paris has proved a bleak place for him in the past.
Following their historic win over England, Wales Under 20 suffered a narrow, 36-34 loss to their Scottish counterparts last weekend, despite outscoring them by five tries to three. Watch the match highlights and reaction.
WRU TV go behind the scenes with the Wales squad as they put the final touches in place ahead of the clash against Scotland at Murrayfield. Follow the squad on their captain's run, the kickers visit to Murrayfield and Neil Jenkins' press conference