'I heard a pop' - AJ MacGinty's 'crazy aggressive treatment' to rehab knee
Sale Sharks AJ MacGinty is flying to Newfoundland at the start of a 12,000 mile trip designed to take the USA Eagles to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France and prepare him for another attempt at winning the Gallagher Premiership title.
Eagles captain MacGinty’s itinerary transports him from Manchester to St John’s, Newfoundland via Montreal on Sunday for the first World Cup qualifying match with Canada next Saturday and then to Denver for the return fixture on September 11 before heading back to England ahead of the opening Premiership home game with Bath on September 18.
If the USA are the aggregate winner over the two legs, they will then face Uruguay on October 2 and 9, with the victor earning qualification for Rugby World Cup 2023 in Pool A with New Zealand, France Italy and possibly Namibia. The loser of the USA v Canada matches will face Chile over two legs on October 2 and 9, with the winner of that tie facing a further play-off in 2022 to earn a place in France.
The World Cup qualifying match in St John’s will be the MacGinty’s first since he badly injured a knee in Sale’s final regular-season Premiership match against Exeter which they lost 20-19. As a result, MacGinty, who was enjoying his best season in Sale colours, missed the play-off semi-final against the same opposition a week later which saw Exeter earn the right to reach Twickenham where they lost to Harlequins in the final.
Now, after a successful rehabilitation programme that has included the use of a special muscle exercising machine from America, MacGinty is ready for his trans-Atlantic challenge and Sale’s Premiership campaign.
While MacGinty is determined to help Sale prove they are again one of the leading contenders for the Premiership title, he knows that getting the USA to France is critical for the continued development of North American rugby.
He told RugbyPass: “The knee injury actually happened earlier in the Exeter match and I heard a pop in the first half and I tore my cartilage at that point. At the end of the game I got bumped and the loose cartilage overlapped onto the bit that was still attached and created a kind of doorstep in my knee and everything seized up.
“I couldn’t put pressure on the leg and it could have been a lengthy absence but the surgeon said I would be able to put weight on the leg after the operation. He was right and straight after surgery I was able to walk on it and then it was a case of cracking on. I cannot speak too highly about the staff at Sale and the environment which makes a big difference. I have been nailing down the smaller tendons and ligaments with specific work and the S&C guys are great.
“Unlike Manu (Tuilagi) there hasn’t been any ballroom dancing during the rehab and while my wife is a good dancer she will tell you I am not. I acquired an Arpwave machine from America which stimulates your muscles even when you are sitting down and use it five times a week for 20 minutes a time. It is a crazy aggressive treatment as well as the pool work and beach walking in sand to strengthen muscles in my feet to improve my ankles and knees.“
The injury robbed MacGinty of the chance to captain the Eagles against England at Twickenham and in the match with Ireland in Dublin where his family was hoping to see him in action. While those heavy defeats were a setback, MacGinty believes the chance to play in big matches has helped the development of the young talent in a squad that is increasingly based on players from Major League Rugby that is making significant strides in North America.
Now, he is back and recognises the importance of qualifying for France and added: “The qualifying pathway has changed and if we beat Canada there is another round of matches before you make it to the World Cup. We hadn’t been together for nearly 18 months before we played England and a lot of guys in the squad will have taken a lot from those games as they had to deal with COVID-19 restrictions disruptions. The squad had a lot of new faces and the group was really tight and that is very promising and coming up we also have games against the All Blacks (Oct 23) and then Ireland (Oct 30) in Las Vegas.”
The Sale squad is completing pre-season training minus Springbok players Faf de Klerk, Lood de Jager and the du Preez brother Dan and Jean-Luc who won’t be available until later in year while Tom Curry, the Lions and England flanker, is also serving his mandatory stand-down period. MacGinty, thanks to the injury, will be able to launch straight into the Premiership season and said: “I have had my time off in the summer and am raring to go.
“Of course you want those guys around but it will the players who are doing the pre-season who will be involved over the next ten weeks and then those players will come back in November and December and add to the squad. The training has been incredible and the new signings are also making an impact. If other teams want to write us off because of the players who won’t be with us at the start of the campaign that will be in our favour.
“The experience from last year had a big impact on everyone and we were all disappointed. There is a hunger and desire and we know there is a lot more we can do and we will hit the ground running from round one. Manu Tuilagi and Rohan Janse van Rensburg are both fit and in great shape although they are a bit sore at the moment because myself and Rob du Preez spanked them at golf recently.
“Manu is four months into golf and shot a 114 which was his best round and he is playing off 28. Rohan hits the ball 300 yards off the tee and while it can go wayward, he has a future in long driving competitions.”
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