Wales star Taulupe Faletau has admitted he wondered if he could still play rugby after spending lengthy spells on the sidelines.
The fit-again Bath number eight will return to the Test arena on Saturday when Wales launch their Guinness Six Nations campaign against Italy in Cardiff.
It will be his first international appearance since the final game of Wales’ 2018 Six Nations season.
A 22-month gap between his 72nd and 73rd caps included him twice suffering a broken arm and being laid low by a collarbone injury that required surgery.
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The latter setback put paid to any chance of him playing in the World Cup earlier this season, and it has been a long road back.
“There was a lot that went on in that time, and I am just glad to be back in the fold,” said Faletau, who lines up in the Wales back-row alongside Aaron Wainwright and Justin Tipuric this weekend.
“My first game back (for Bath) it was like having my first run-out for the Dragons – it had been that long.
“I was definitely nervous. At one point you wonder if you can still play rugby. I am just glad to be out there playing.
“We trained at the stadium today, and pulling in there brought a few nerves on. I am sure there will be more on Saturday.
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“It has been a tough period in my career, and with the management I’ve had I have known how to deal with those situations.”
Faletau, 29, looked on course to feature at the World Cup before suffering the collarbone issue and he admits that it hit him hard.
“Immediately, it was tough,” he added.
“I hadn’t played any rugby (following a previous injury) and that made it tougher as I thought I would be available to play some of the friendly games before the World Cup to see if I could have a chance to put my hand up.
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“It didn’t get to that stage. It was a tough one, that.
“The boys did well in the (2019) Six Nations and I would have liked to have added to that if I could have, but I didn’t get the chance.
“Out of the two arms and knees (injuries) it was the collarbone which hurt the most.”
Since returning to action with Bath recently, Faletau has wasted little time confirming his world-class ability, and Wales fans are now about to welcome him back.
“When you are away for that length of time, I guess I will look forward to it more,” he said.
“Running out in front of that crowd is amazing, and there is no place like the Principality Stadium.
“I’ve been away for a while, and more now than ever I will try to make the most of the times I do get to play.”
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