In his latest column for Talking Rugby Union, Josh Beaumont reflects on his return from injury, the changes at Sale Sharks and he also looks ahead to the 2021 Guinness Six Nations.
It has been great to be back involved again over the last few weeks. I was involved in the matchday squad a couple of times in the lead up to my comeback against Gloucester to get a feel for it again so it has been a progressive recovery for me.
Fourteen months is such a long time to be out of action for and you sometimes forget what that feeling is like of a normal matchday routine. I made sure I was 100 per cent right, but it got to a stage where I needed to just give it a go.
I knew I was going to feel some discomfort around that knee area, but I came on against Gloucester and straight away, I felt really good on the pitch. It was nice that the knee got through it because you know in the back of your mind you haven’t trained at the same intensity as you normally would.
It was a relief to get on to the pitch in that environment and sneaking over for a try to get the win was extra special as well!
To then get a full 80 minutes against Worcester under my belt, that was a big box ticker for me because I wasn’t anticipating to play 80 minutes in that game, but I felt pretty good out there. Obviously, getting another 80 at Welford Road was great too.
I am still building back into it, but I am delighted to be back out there and it has gone better than I probably anticipated after such a long time out.
Around the period when Dimes [Steve Diamond] left, I definitely wouldn’t call it a blip in form for us as a team. I think we probably should have won a couple of those games but in a strange way, I think it was good that those results came at that time because it allowed us to address a couple of things.
That wasn’t to do with how we were playing, but it was more around the building and the training ground. It has been a bit of a strange time with the way last season ended, and we probably had a hangover from that in terms of our cohesion on the pitch. We had it in our minds that we wanted to get back to the levels we had been hitting, and maybe one or two of those defeats helped us take a step back and look at how we were operating.
In terms of Dimes, he gave me my first shot. It came off the back of a pre-season game when I was playing for Fylde against Sale! He was just willing to give young lads a shot and if you were good enough, he just threw you in there. He gave you the confidence to just go out and play. I owe him a lot and I’ll look forward to catching up with him in the not-so-distant future.
Deacs [Paul Deacon] did a great job when he stepped in with all the other coaches, but with Alex [Sanderson] coming in, it has been a great last two or three weeks.
He has a period in mind where we are going to take a step back and look at who we are and where we want to go and it is a massively exciting time for the club. As I said before, Dimes played a big part in my career, but it has been great to have a different and fresh voice coming into the club. It keeps everyone on their toes and for me, it means you are not getting too comfortable. He has a different approach and it gets you thinking and challenges you a bit more.
He has obviously picked up bits from the culture and the environment he has been in at Saracens, but he has gone off and done a lot of work in the southern hemisphere, so those experiences from elite organisations add to that new challenge for us. He speaks well and gets his messages across well to the players so we know what he wants and we know how we are going to deliver it.
I think you have to be excited by playing Bristol Bears. It is a great opportunity to go to the team at the top of the league because I think it will show where we are as a squad. It is a great challenge and they have been going really well, but we back ourselves in defence and they have got a great attack so it should be an exciting game.
We have gone down there the last couple of years and expected them to play like they did against Bath, but they haven’t so you never know what they are going to bring! We can speak about their backs, but their pack is really well organised. They have got a good driving maul and a good set-piece so it will be a huge challenge for us as forwards, but one we are looking forward to.
I think the Six Nations will be great for the general public to tune in to during these difficult times. We got a bit of a taste of international rugby in the autumn, but the Six Nations will bring a different intensity to it.
I think it will be a good challenge for England this weekend. I think Scotland will quite fancy themselves without the Twickenham crowd behind England and they will see this as a real opportunity.
I do think not having a crowd makes a difference. Going to teams like Gloucester, it was different and I think they are probably desperate for fans to come back and give them that lift. It can work both ways, though! If you are not doing too well, suddenly the fans can get on your back.
Taking something from football, Manchester United have found some great form, and maybe if they concede an early goal, they now haven’t got Old Trafford moaning at them so they are probably enjoying that! I do think England would much prefer having a full house at Twickenham roaring them on Saturday, though!
Back-row battle will be intriguing
I think the second-rows across the tournament are quite established so I think the back-row is where the focus will be. If you look at England, the fact that they originally left a player like Jack Willis out, that just shows the depth that England have got in that position.
The French with players like [Gregory] Alldritt are dangerous and the Irish back-row is very good over the ball and the same with Wales. Scotland will be looking to disrupt England on Saturday so the battle of the breakdown will come out across all the games and whoever dominates that area will probably give us a good scope of who is going to do well in the tournament.
Josh Beaumont was speaking to Talking Rugby Union's Chris Heal
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