Thursday 18 January 2018

Fitzgerald in line to make his Leinster return

Leinster's Luke Fitzgerald. Picture: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Luke Fitzgerald. Picture: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

LEINSTER'S Luke Fitzgerald could make his latest return from injury when Northampton Saints come to Dublin on Friday night.

When the Irish wing tore his anterior cruciate ligament back in March, it was the third serious setback to his knee, serious enough to make him doubt his long-term future in the game, coming, as it did, shortly after a neck injury.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to keep playing this game," he told Newstalk radio recently.

Fitzgerald, still just 25, has shown perseverance and strength to come back again. Only time will tell whether his footwork, one of his greatest weapons, is intact.

Of course, there was the long, drawn-out wrangle over his contract before the neck injury wiped out his bargaining power the season before last, leaving him on a one-year rolling contract.

"I feel really lucky and blessed to be able to continue to play first of all. All the other things come with being a professional sportsman.

"Things are pretty ruthless at the top. I definitely took some learning from that. I go into different things with my eyes open now.

"I might have been a little naive as to how business is done in professional sports up until that point. But, you move on from those things.

"At the end of the day, if you are playing well, things are pretty simple anyway. The real focus for me is to get back playing well."

The quick impact of a neck injury in 2012 and a third knee injury in March of this year have accelerated his maturity on the realities of the business of rugby.

"Things got pretty awful for a while. What's really important is that, once you've come through those periods, you're stronger for them. Nothing has changed. When you are playing well, I think, you are in a lot of good habits. It goes back to the continuity and momentum from playing games.



"Your thought process after you play a few games quickens up. You get more comfortable in different scenarios.

"No matter how hard you train, it is really hard to replicate the tension and nervousness that come with playing the game. After a couple of games, once I am up to speed, I will feel really good about it."

All Fitzgerald has to do now is play the game.

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