Bracken takes first steps back up the mountain

Click to follow
The Independent Online

There are not many players who welcome being on the bench, but Kyran Bracken is an exception. The man who set the benchmark for England scrum-halves until injury cruelly put him out of action last June, is on the bench for Saracens at Newcastle on Sunday.

There are not many players who welcome being on the bench, but Kyran Bracken is an exception. The man who set the benchmark for England scrum-halves until injury cruelly put him out of action last June, is on the bench for Saracens at Newcastle on Sunday.

That brings his 10-month absence full circle - the former England scrum-half's last appearance in the Allied Dunbar Premiership was against the same opponents last May, when Saracens won 40-26.

After faith healers, physios and old-fashioned surgery have all been to work on a bulging disc in his back, Bracken is delighted to be back in action once more. And after learning that he will travel north with the squad at the weekend he said: "It's been really great to be able to get out on the training field with the lads. And with me being able to get involved 100 per cent again, the last few days have been as good as I have been dreaming about for the past 10 months."

But Bracken, who has 23 England caps, has only been in full contact training for the past fortnight, having undergone an operation on his back in December.

The injury had caused him to miss the whole of the World Cup, since when Matt Dawson has not just established himself as the No 1 scrum-half in the country, but has also taken over the captaincy of England. It will be uphill just getting back into the Saracens side; an England return represents a veritable mountain.

But he sounds prepared for a long, hard slog. "Now the real hard work starts," said the 28-year-old Bracken. "Nick Walshe and Matt Powell have played well this season and I am really going to have to push myself harder to get myself into contention for a place in the starting line-up. It has been tough over the last 10 months, watching the team from the sidelines. I have been desperate to get involved."

Another player glad to be on the bench on Sunday is Phil Greening, the England hooker. He has finally been able to put his Sale episode behind him and is preparing for his first appearance for his new club, Wasps. Like Bracken, Greening will not have automatic right of entry into the first XV, because Trevor Leota, a cult figure at Loftus Road, holds the top spot. But Wasps' director of rugby, Nigel Melville, said: "Trevor puts his body on the line every match. But he cannot play every single game in the committed way he does. And I am not prepared to ruin his career by letting him get bashed to bits. He has got to have time off. Having Phil Greening on the staff is a fantastic opportunity. It gives me the option to replace Trevor with another player of the highest quality."

The Welsh Rugby Union's report into the eligibility row involving the New Zealanders Shane Howarth and Brett Sinkinson has not yet arrived at the offices of the International Board in Dublin. But if reports in a New Zealand paper yesterday are correct, Howarth's Welsh connection was through his stepfather's father, making the former All Black full-back ineligible, while Sinkinson has already been found to have no Welsh ancestry.

Comments