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Back from the abyss, Bath's revival is gathering steam

Johan van Graan has quietly set about improving every facet of the West Country club and results are starting to come

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'He didn't look like he has been away at all, let alone two years'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Last Sunday in Manchester wasn’t just a celebration of an opening round Gallagher Premiership win for Sale, there was also great elation that Josh Beaumont had stepped off the bench and successfully played his first rugby match in 15 months

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The 30-year-old son of ex-England skipper Bill had last featured for the Sharks in June 2021, his left knee breaking down after a bit of bone chipped off to end his comeback following the recovery from his rupture of the patellar tendon on his right knee.

Thirteen matches were all he had managed to play since November 2019, but that adversity finally gave way last weekend to a second-half appearance as a sub for Matt Postlethwaite.

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He doesn’t feature this Saturday at Bath, as England’s Jonny Hill is set for his Sale debut, but the memory of his appearance versus Northampton will surely now drive Beaumont on following his considerable layoff.

“We mentioned it on the field in the little huddle afterwards and he got a big cheer from the boys,” said Sale boss Sanderson about how the Beaumont comeback was received by his teammates.

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“There was more elation for him coming back than the result, he is so highly regarded and well respected and much loved in this environment. It wasn’t just a win for Josh, it was a win for us all. I don’t know many people who could after two years out have the drive to get back. He managed the lineout, he was running lines. He didn’t look like he has been away at all, let alone two years. He has just gone up again in my estimation – and he was pretty high up anyway.”

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It’s a comeback story that Sanderson hopes can inspire other players when they get injured and feel the road back is too long and too daunting. “We [rugby] are not the most dangerous sport, I have been told there are more dangerous sports out there which I won’t divulge because some sporting bodies will come after me, but injury is inevitable in any contact sport.

“And so it is how you persevere through injury, through adversity, which injury is. It not only grows you as a person but it shows the mark of you. He is a great example. Unless it is a chronic injury at some point your bad luck is going to end, it has got to end and you see this in many people’s careers and this has now happened with Josh in his career.

“Fortunately it has not come at the end of his career, he has still got a year, two years maybe three to have the best years of his career and that is down to his own perseverance. For anyone else who is injured, what is that song by Journey, don’t stop believing!”

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