Moody back after injury hell

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The Independent Online

Lewis Moody will end a nine-month injury nightmare tomorrow night, and he admits: "I am absolutely ready to go."

The England flanker is poised to make a long-awaited comeback when Leicester play their final EDF Energy Cup pool game against Welford Road visitors Sale Sharks.

He has not played since limping off during the opening 15 minutes of England's RBS 6 Nations loss to Wales at Twickenham last February.

The 30-year-old World Cup winner subsequently underwent Achilles and hip surgery, but has now received the green light to pack down in Tigers' back-row alongside New Zealand recruit Craig Newby.

Moody said: "As a rugby player, you just want to get out and play.

"I have come through all the rehab, and now I just want to play. I am absolutely ready to go."

Leicester head coach Heyneke Meyer confirmed Moody's appetite for battle after witnessing his trademark approach to training - an all-action style that helped coin him the nickname "Crazy Horse".

Meyer said: "We need to show a lot of character with some of the international players away, but I am confident in the guys we have got. Let's see how they go.

"Lewis has been working well, and he will start.

"He has been training hard, and we have had to tell him a few times to ease off.

"Craig Newby has looked good in training, too. It is a new challenge for him, and it is great to have a guy of his stature and international experience to come into the team."

Leicester, Anglo-Welsh Cup winners in 2007 and runners-up last season, must beat already-eliminated Sale to have any chance of reaching the semi-finals.

But whatever Tigers do, it will be academic if group leaders Cardiff Blues beat Bath at the Arms Park tomorrow night.

Meyer has chosen to rest former England forwards Martin Corry and Julian White, so lock Ben Kay takes over from Corry as captain, while wing Tom Varndell makes a first start since being ditched from England's elite player squad.

Tigers number eight Jordan Crane, who was among eight England squad players released back to their clubs earlier this week, is on the replacements' bench.

Despite Sale being out of semi-final contention, Sharks rugby director Philippe Saint-Andre still parades a sprinkling of internationals, including Dwayne Peel, Jason White and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.

Another player on the comeback trail tomorrow is Moody's former England colleague Danny Grewcock.

Bath lock Grewcock also makes his first start of the campaign following injury, and head coach Steve Meehan is targeting a win that could edge his team into semi-final contention.

Blues boss David Young has played down the loss of seven players to three days' Wales squad training this week.

Young was without Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Gethin Jenkins, Martyn Williams, Robin Sowden-Taylor and Andy Powell as Wales stepped up preparations for next week's Millennium Stadium appointment with world champions South Africa.

The former Wales and Lions prop said: "Our preparation for Friday's match has not been ideal.

"But as I have stated before, I am really pleased for the players who are in the Welsh squad, and I am 100% behind them and (head coach) Warren Gatland."

Young fields two of his current Wales contingent in the starting XV - centre Shanklin and flanker Sowden-Taylor - with Williams on replacement duty.

The Blues have beaten Guinness Premiership trio Sale, Gloucester and Leicester this month, and their current form suggests Bath will provide a fourth notable scalp.

Young added: "We can take confidence from our recent performances.

"The coaching team has been pleased with the way the players have fronted-up against big physical opponents, and we have also been clinical in the way we have finished our chances."