Lennon Greggains has spent the last eight months hoping he might get a game of rugby in before the season ends.
The 2019-20 season was due to be his breakthrough campaign, but 30 minutes into the opening match of the Celtic Cup in Galway on 23 August he ruptured his ACL and was condemned to up to nine months on the sidelines.
Under normal circumstances that wouldn’t have been any good for the former Wales U20 star, but now there is a chance he could play if the season resumes this summer. He was given a re-start date in May and is raring to go again.
“I’m excited about getting my name out there again. I’m back running now and I’m hoping to come back in the best physical shape of my life,” said Greggains before going into lockdown.
“I put on about 10kgs to begin with after the operation, and was starting to look big and chunky, but my weight has dropped since I was able to start running again. I went up to 113kg at my heaviest during my re-hab, but now I’m feeling comfortable at 106kg.
“I’ve been out of action for almost eight months and I was initially given a return to play date in May. I’m just doing everything I can to make that happen.”
The injury happened in a pretty innocuous way in Connacht and it was the first time the rising young star had been forced to face up to a major lay-off. He has tried to turn it into a learning experience.
“The injury happened 30 minutes into the game in Connacht. Our full back tackled theirs and I just turned quickly to go into a tackle,” he recalled.
“It was something I’ve done thousands of times, but on this occasion I just felt my knee give way. Initially, they thought it might have just been a medial ligament strain and a five week break.
“Then I had a scan and the specialist told me it was my ACL and I needed an operation. All of a sudden I was facing up to nine months without playing rugby.
“That was difficult for me to get my head around because I’d never experienced anything like that before in my career. Two weeks after the operation I was trying to walk, which wasn’t the best thing to do, and I have to admit that for about five months I found it really tough.
“I’m usually pretty independent, but my Mum and Dad had to do all the cooking for me and their support was fantastic. At the club, I spoke to a lot of players who had been through the same injury and their help and advice, along with that of the physios, was invaluable.”
While he has been supporting from the sidelines, his former Wales U18 and U20 back row colleague Taine Basham has been tearing it up in the PRO14 and European Challenge Cup. So much so, in fact, he got a call-up to Wayne Pivac’s Welsh squad.
While Basham has been the talk of Welsh rugby this season, his name has always been synonymous with Greggains as the two of them have come up through the ranks. Dragons’ director of rugby Dean Ryan may not have seen Greggains play in the flesh as yet, but he is aware of his quality.
“I got a text from Dean last summer after Wales U20 had beaten New Zealand at the Junior World Cup and then I was given a new contract while I was recovering from my injury,” said Greggains.
“That filled me with confidence. Dean has had a chat with me every day at the club and I intend to do whatever I can to prove to him I can make it at the top level.
“The Dragons had a much improved season under him and it is a really tight squad. There are a lot of younger players who have come through the ranks together and we are all good mates as well as colleagues and push each other on.”
Ryan already has three Welsh internationals in his back row armoury in Ross Moriarty, Aaron Wainwright and Ollie Griffiths, while Basham is pushing that trio hard for a starting place. Harrison Keddie, the star of the 2015 Grand Slam Wales U20 side, the evergreen Lewis Evans and former England U20 World Cup winner Huw Taylor are also all still in the mix.
But now that Greggains is ready to step back into the fray everything could be shaken up still further. He wants to make up for lost time as he returns to action alongside five other young Dragons who signed contracts at the same time as him, Taine Basham, Max Williams, Josh Reynolds, Connor Edwards and Dan Babos.