Exeter boss Rob Baxter had shed light on the latest lengthy absence of Wales international Alex Cuthbert from his squad roster at Sandy Park, while also issuing progress reports on England winger Jack Nowell and South African forward Jannes Kirsten who sustained a recent facial injury.
Welsh winger Cuthbert, the 30-year-last capped in 2017, has endured an injury-hit existence at Exeter since joining the reigning Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Cup Champions from Cardiff in 2018.
Having enjoyed a productive first term at the club, featuring 17 times in the 2018/19 season, he has had limited exposure since then. There were just four appearances in the pre-lockdown part of the 2019/20 season, Cuthbert requiring surgery after damaging his hamstring in action 14 months ago against La Rochelle.
Cuthbert managed three post-lockdown restart appearances but hasn’t featured on the Exeter teamsheet since the round 22 league defeat at Wasps on October 4 and is yet to make an appearance in the new 2020/21 campaign.
Baxter has now explained the Welshman’s ongoing absence, a lay-off that is now 14 weeks and counting. “Alex had a quite significant muscle tear and we just had to give him proper time,” said the Exeter coach ahead of this Saturday’s top of the table league clash with Bristol.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 6, 2021
“He kind of rolled from injury to injury a lot of time he has been here. Alex would play tomorrow, that is the kind of guy he is and probably it has been the reason why he has tended to pick up injuries or has sustained worse injuries. He is quite a tough cookie. He wants to be on the field and he gets on with things and sometimes he maybe hasn’t quite reported little bits and pieces, so we are being a bit overly cautious with him, just taking our time.
“He is one of these guys who will be around in the foreseeable future but it’s just one of those things, players pick up injuries and you have got to condition them through it and get them fit to play again. There are no other issues with him other than there has been an injury issue.
“The one thing that everybody at the club is very positive about is he is one of the hardest working rehab people we have had. The conditioners and the physios can’t talk highly enough about how perfectionist he is and how hard he works to right himself right.
“That is all you can ask of a player. You can’t ask players not to get injured. That is not how it works. All you can do is ask them to give every opportunity to get back on the field when they can and be ready to play and he does that every single time.”
Switching to Nowell, who was sent for an operation on ruptured toe ligaments following October’s Premiership final win over Wasps, should be back in harness sometime this spring. “It was a serious injury, quite an operation. Timescale, I don’t want to be overly positive but you are probably looking five, six to eight weeks.
“Time goes by incredibly quickly. A lot of our guys who have had operations or tidy ups, there is that period where we could get them back in a bit of block, that period of four to ten weeks there is a good block of injured players who will be returning then. Time will go by quickly but at the moment we have got a strong squad and we will be getting on with things,” he said, switching to the prognosis surrounding Kirsten following the Boxing Day win over Gloucester.
“Jannes came off for the HIA and realised there was something more going on. When he went in for an x-ray he got a very small fracture around his eye socket. I won’t tell you the exact details of it all but it means he has a small operation.
“He has been back in and around (the squad since then). He is okay but now he has got to go through his period of rehab which with facial injuries means you have got to rest for a period because any pressure so what can cause you issues again. So at the moment he is just resting and recuperating and he will start a return to play in that next five, six-week period.”
"I don’t think you can say the competition is normal in the sense that games are having to be called off and points allocated"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 6, 2021
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