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The Ospreys and Wales loosehead expects a big reaction against Australia after the chastening loss to Georgia

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'It's incredible that he is back and fighting, he is revved up'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Gloucester boss George Skivington has described the incredible fightback that Jake Polledri has gone through to get back into professional rugby. The Italian back-rower very nearly lost his career to the serious knee injury sustained when playing in the Autumn Nations Cup in November 2020 for his country, while he also suffered the harrowing bereavement earlier this year that was the tragic death of his younger brother.

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However, the 26-year-old has now beaten the odds and having had a run for Gloucester United versus Hartpury earlier this month, he has now been picked to play his first club first-team match in two years as he has been named to start at blindside when Gloucester take on Worcester in Wednesday night’s Premiership Rugby Cup game at Kingsholm.

“To go through what Jake has gone through and to come back from it is monumental,” enthused Skivington about the effort Polledri made to get back fit and be included on the Gloucester teamsheet for the first time since September 2020.

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“With all the stuff that has gone on in his life away from rugby as well, it’s incredible that he is even back playing. That side of it is massive and then you have the side of getting back to Premiership fitness and robustness and all that side of it, we have got to be careful how we manage Jake.

“We have got to get him back to that sort of level of intensity that he hasn’t experienced for a couple of years and hopefully we get him back to that and then he will get back to where he was. But we have got to be smart, we have got to be responsible and it will be great to see him out there.”

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How did Polledri react to the Gloucester selection news that he has been named to start after such a considerable layoff? “He is really excited,” continued Skivington. “Jake is a seriously competitive beast and he wants to be playing in the Premiership now and every week. It probably comes with a mixed bag for him because he is good to go in terms of getting out on the rugby field, so as you would expect with a proper competitor they want to be playing on the weekend now.

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“There is a little bit of taming him and trying to keep the leash off for a little bit but he is delighted to be back out. He was delighted to be out for the Hartpury game and the whole squad and everybody here were really excited he got out there and got through that. He is really, really excited.

“He understands the process he has got to go through to really kick on and get himself back in the Premiership team but he is so competitive that he is very focused on doing that. There is a bit of delight that he can play but there is also a bit of that frustration fuel that he wants to be playing on the Saturday. It’s a good place to be and I am pretty convinced by his conviction that he is going to get back to where he was.”

There were surely periods when this thought of Polledri ever taking the field again for Gloucester was unthinkable. “Early on was pretty dark for Jake and for everybody because it was such a significant injury and also unknown territory, there wasn’t a huge amount of previous examples in the game to go by. It’s one of those where you just have to rely on the medical teams really.

“Jake was away for those first few months and he was very much ‘we need to see what happens’, but certainly the last six months we have seen a shift and seen how determined he is and how is starting to come along. I don’t think there has been any doubt for the last six months that he was going to come back but for the first six months certainly, it was just, ‘Let’s hope this is getting back to a decent level, never mind professional rugby level’.

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“That is why I say you have got to take your hat off to Jake, to be in that position and to do what he has done over the last two years and get back to the level he is at takes some serious mental resolve as well as what has happened in his family life and whatnot, it’s incredibly really that he is back and fighting.

“Like I say, I have probably got to control the beast until he is absolutely ready to go. That is my responsibility but I could see today [Tuesday] he is certainly revved up and ready to go.”

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