This weekend London Irish welcome Exeter Chiefs to the Madejski Stadium on Sunday 11th January in the Aviva Premiership.

One man hoping he can make a difference is second row Nic Rouse who, after missing the first half of the season due to injury, is raring to go for his third game back.

You may expect someone who spent the best part of four months on the side-lines to ease back into the season, but not Rouse who has clocked up an impressive 155 minutes in the last two games.

“It is obviously great to be back,” said Rouse. “No one wants to be out with long term injuries so it is good to be back out there and back with the boys.

“Against London Welsh I actually surprised myself,” he said referring to his first game back where he went the distance. “I didn’t expect to last, I though I would start to struggle in the legs and lungs.

“As the game turned out I had to go for the full 80 and it went alright, I’m not happy with everything I did but generally I am pleased for a first game back.

“Sarries the following week was a totally different kettle of fish, very physical. Generally the body held up fine.

“I was obviously disappointed with the result, especially when we got it back to 11 – 6 and we were thinking you know lets take it to them but we let them back in with a cheap penalty and we were on an uphill struggle again.”

In the summer London Irish moved into their new home at the Hazelwood Centre and the Club has seen considerable investment into the strength and condition and rehab facilities, something Rouse feels is a huge step forward.

“It is obviously frustrating being out but at the same time with the way it (rehab) is structured here to your individual needs, you have an individual time table and you don’t really have a lot of time.

“You are always doing weights, fitness, rehab or in with the physios, you are always busy and working really hard. You don’t appreciate how much work all that team put in until you are with them so I have to give a huge amount of credit to those guys for all they did.

“It is one huge difference I have noticed from last year to this year,” he continues. “The boys are coming back fitter and ready to go after an injury which is testament to the S&C and the physio teams, and to the new facilities.

“I was in two days after my operation and started there,” he said of his rehab programme. “It’s not as full on in the first couple of weeks but after that it is a big slog.

“There are three Watt Bikes in the gym and I now know everything about each one of them,” he laughed. “But it has put me in good stead and I am in a good place and can hopefully push on from here.”

This hard work in the gym is clearly paying off as he has played nearly every minute of possible game time since his return, only missing out on the final five minutes at Saracens last week.

“Keep you head up,” he said as advice to anyone else working through rehab. “Or keep your head down in fact! Work hard. Keep your chin up but work hard. If you work hard and use it in the right way you can come back fitter and better than before.

“That is how I used it and I think I am in better shape now than what I was like when I got injured, so I take that as a positive.”

London Irish will be looking for their experienced second rower to use this fitness to play a pivotal role for the squad as they look to this weekend where the Exiles will hope to get their revenge on the Exeter side that beat them earlier in the season at Sandy Park.

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