'I saw that Theo Brophy-Clews had retired... I got a second opinion from a very respected neurosurgeon in Manchester'
Sale Sharks captain Jono Ross flies into Manchester today at the end of a pandemic disrupted trip to South Africa confident he can prove his concussion problems will not stop him leading the club’s Gallagher Premiership title bid.
Ross was given permission in April to see his parents in South Africa for the first time in two years, introducing them to his four-month-old daughter. The combative back-row forward had suffered the third concussion of this season against London Irish on March 21 having also sustained similar knocks against Northampton and Toulon and a period out of the game was a specialists’ advice.
Ross gave RugbyPass an insight into his concussions just 24 hours after he learnt that Theo Brophy-Clews, of London Irish, had been forced to retire due to concussion problems. Speaking from the Serbian capital of Belgrade, Ross gave an update on his health as, together wife his wife and daughter, he prepared to complete a flight schedule and quarantine period dictated by COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Ross said: “I got concussed in the first game of the season against Northampton and against Toulon followed by another one in the match with Irish and went to see the specialist a few times and he suggested I needed some time out from the game even though my tests were pretty good. I saw that Theo Brophy-Clews had retired and that is very sad and I got a second opinion from a very respected neurosurgeon in Manchester and after that discussion I was very reassured.
“I am pretty confident that I will be back playing before the end of the season and I am sure there will be some tests to be done.
“With that number of concussions I had in that period of time it was wise to spend some time away from the game and not having seen my parents for two years, Alex (Sanderson, director of rugby) and the club very kindly said that as I wasn’t going to be back until towards the end of the season then why didn’t I go home to South Africa.
“What happened is that we tested to go back and my wife was positive and that was the first hiccup and we had to isolate for 10 days and then retested and were all negative. I got to spend time with my family who got to meet our daughter and it was special times. At the end of our trip to South Africa we went for a holiday in the Maldives.”
It is at this point of their trip that Ross and his family had their travel plans significantly disrupted as the Maldives was moved from the Amber list by the UK Government onto the Red list which meant anyone coming back from the popular holiday destination would need to spend 10-days in a designated hotel. That would have impacted on Ross’s ability to stick to the training plan given to him by the Sale Sharks fitness team to ensure he would be able to rejoin the squad in preparation for matches.
Ross explained: “We wanted to spend 10 days in the Maldives and having been there for a couple of days we learnt during dinner one evening that they had been added to the Red list. That was stressful and so we left he Maldives and flew to Serbia and have spent 11 days in Belgrade. Trying to find flights has been a challenge but we fully understand that we took a risk to spend time with family and we are looking forward to getting back home to Manchester again.
“It’s been drawn out having left the UK on 20 April and we have now been out of South Africa longer than we were in the country and have been very respectful of all the rules which we have followed.”
With Sale having been unable to complete their bid for a play-off place last season after COVID-19 forced matches to be cancelled, Ross admits there is lingering frustration that the squad wants to erase and reach the semi-finals matches in this campaign. “Yes, there is massive frustration following last season but we have shown throughout this season in our determination that we are in a better position in the final couple of games. We don’t want a COVID cancellation to ruin our season again. Some of the results recently have been exceptional under Alex and the team has grown on from our time with Steve Diamond and now we need to get some more wins.”
Ross’s return to action is coinciding with the recovery of Manu Tuilagi from his Achilles surgery and the No8 added: “Manu is one of the best players in the World and joins a lot of depth in our backline. I have trained pretty hard throughout and hopefully that will stand me in good stead.”
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