Following a return from the sidelines, prop Will Goodrick-Clarke is determined to get back involved with the Exiles and maintains the squad are “working on what they want to achieve” from the final two games of the season.
Goodrick-Clarke has been absent from matchday action since the end of January after being forced off 33 minutes into Irish’s home clash with Harlequins, a game the Exiles went on to win 42-24.
The 27-year-old suffered a back injury in a set-piece involvement on derby day at the Gtech Community Stadium, but has since returned to full training having credited the work of the Club’s physiotherapy staff in his recovery.
A period of “knuckling down” was in order for the front-row forward, nevertheless, who recounts his journey back to fitness.
“I went down in a scrum and ended up injuring my back, and it’s a bit of a niggly one which has made it a bit tougher to come back from,” Goodrick-Clarke explained.
“I’ve been out for around three months now but I’ve slowly built my fitness back up without it being particularly linear, I’ve had a few ups and downs but I’ve been back in training for the last two or three weeks properly.
“It’s part and parcel of what we do, but I’d be lying if I said that being away from the pitch wasn’t quite boring!
“I’ve had to knuckle down and looked towards the light at the end of the tunnel to get back where I want to be, which is playing.
“I’m feeling good!”
A lengthy recovery process, which started with a period of convalescence, eventually integrated the necessary work in the gym and then the pitches of the Hazelwood Centre.
Goodrick-Clarke commended the efforts of Head Physiotherapist Paul Cremin and the backroom staff at London Irish in getting the prop back on track ahead of the final few games of the campaign.
“The first part of my recovery was letting everything settle down after having massive back spasms, which was challenging in itself because I couldn’t do anything other than rest.
“I worked back into doing light physio work and now is more about building back the core strength, my stability and making sure everything around my hips loosened off in order to take away the pain.
“Rehab-wise, there was a lot of work in the gym with our physios, which was great, and more recently it’s been trying to get match fit after having my time on the field limited.
“Paul [Cremin] is someone who I have been working pretty closely with, he’s been great but I have seen all the physios at one point or another – they’ve all been doing brilliant work and I feel good to go.”
With no place guaranteed in a stacked Exiles roster, a competitive edge to every training session is further complemented by a close group of teammates.
Such a unified movement as a pack in particular will only see Irish’s set-piece brawn further enhanced, in the eyes of the loosehead forward.
“The competition is always going to make you play better, it’s a good thing.
“Being pushed for your position means that you know you have to perform at the best of your capabilities because nobody wants to lose their spot.
“All of us are very close; me, Danilo [Fischetti], Gussy [Agustín Creevy], Mikey [Mike Willemse], LJ [Lovejoy Chawatama], Ollie [Oliver Hoskins], we’re all a really tight-knit group.
“We want to push that to become a dominant force and have it be a massive pillar of our game, we think that can push us on to achieve something and that starts at the front.”
At the forefront of the pack culture in the Exiles forwards is Assistant Coach Ross McMillan, whose speciality in the set-piece brings them together literally, and figuratively.
“Ross is leading all of that from the front and we all work hard to be the best scrum in the league, and I feel that over the last three years since I have been here, we’ have been getting better and better.
“Ross and I met in my first year when he was a player, so we had that personal relationship but he’s been great since he has made that step up to be a coach.
“He’s always there for any extras in the gym, video reviewing, anything! He’s a great guy and a great resource, he’s very knowledgeable and very good at his job.”
An unusual intermittence within a campaign for Irish over the last three weekends has afforded the squad some much needed rest ahead of the ties against Saracens and Exeter Chiefs.
Goodrick-Clarke, however, has kept himself more involved in the personalised training regimes in Sunbury in a bid to put himself in contention for selection.
The four-year Irish player provided a constructive outlook for the Club ahead of a few crucial Premiership gameweeks, starting against the capital rivals at the StoneX Stadium next Sunday.
“It helps that going into the fallow weeks that we had a good string of form and entered in a really good position.
“That always gives a boost, and throughout that period of time players were allocated a week off – I was still rehabilitating however!
“Honestly though, it’s allowed me a good period of time to work on my personal fitness and to know where my body is physically with less rugby training.
“It’s been really beneficial, and with the boys back now, we are really working on our game and what we want to get out of these last few games of the regular season.
“We’re really positive and massively looking forward to a challenge in pushing on towards the end of the season.”