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Gareth Anscombe breaks silence about his contract-cancelling injury

By Liam Heagney
Gareth Anscombe at the Rugby World Cup with Wales (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Wales out-half Gareth Anscombe has broken his silence about the injury that resulted in his contract for the 2023/24 League One in Japan being cancelled just weeks after he arrived at Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath.

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It was last July when he was unveiled as a new signing in the Far East after finishing up at the Ospreys. At the time, he was training with the Welsh ahead of their Rugby World Cup campaign and he went on to star at the finals for Waren Gatland’s side, especially in the pool stage win over Australia in Lyon.

However, he pulled up lame with a groin injury in the warm-up before their final group match against Georgia and while he was to miss the subsequent quarter-final loss to Argentina, it was felt the injury wasn’t serious – especially as Wales had earmarked him to be available for the semi-finals if they had progressed that far.

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Joe Simmonds on his headspace at Exeter

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Joe Simmonds on his headspace at Exeter

Scans, though, following his arrival in Japan told a different story and a resulting operation led to Suntory Sungoliath cancelling Anscombe’s contract and replacing him with Argentina’s Nicolas Sanchez.

Anscombe has now launched a Sportin Wales podcast and on the show with Test teammate Alex Cuthbert and host Geraint Hardy, he shed light on the cruel injury that has left him on the sidelines without a club despite impressing at France 2023.

“Clearly it wasn’t the plan to come back,” he said in the studio in Wales. “Obviously, I picked up an injury at the World Cup and unfortunately we didn’t realise how serious it was. The plan was to hopefully rehab it and try and get right for the semi-final.

“I passed all my tests during that week, so from our side, it looked pretty promising and I was still really functional. Obviously, disaster struck with us and we lost to Argentina which we didn’t see coming but from a fitness point of view, we didn’t think it was too serious.”

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Anscombe admitted he felt his adductor tweak again post the finals but thought nothing of it before flying out to Japan, but scans at his new club left him crestfallen, returning to London for surgery and ultimately learning he was being released by the Tokyo outfit.

“I remember speaking to the physio and he said, ‘Mate, you have pulled your adductor off the bone’. That was really surprising but also really unusual – you don’t tend to see adductors fully torn off the bone. So it looked like I had to get surgery and I flew back to the UK as quickly as possible and got under the knife really quickly in London.

“It just floored me really, because I was still so functional. Once I got to Japan, I knew something wasn’t quite right, but usually people with these injuries, they are on crutches. I could walk and even thought I could probably run in a straight line, so it just didn’t make sense to me that I had such a big injury and yet I felt so good. It surprised everyone.

“They [Suntory] decided that it wasn’t quite worth the risk and decided to go get another international. It is upsetting, frustrating, a whole mix of emotions, but you understand the nature of the game and they have got to protect themselves just like I have got to protect myself.”

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The ordeal hasn’t completely put Anscombe off the idea of playing in League One when he is fit again. “Would I love to play in Japan? For sure. But right now all the clubs there will be focusing on this season, so we will just wait and see.

“I’m just trying to get back to full fitness. I’m desperate to play rugby – where that is, I’m not too sure yet. I’m hopeful I will be fit in the next couple of months, could be quicker, could be a little bit slower, but we’ll see. Then we will just see what is out there.”

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