Richard Hill, at times as autocratic as his scrum-halves’ practice diaries are long, is not one to dole out praise simply to fill the airwaves or massage a players’ ego.
Yet even the nuggety Worcester head coach felt sufficiently moved by Shaun Perry’s indomitable performance against Northampton a few weeks ago to describe the half-back as ‘a warrior in the true sense of the word’.
One assumes the Sixways head coach meant warrior, rather than Warrior, which would have been a belated statement of the obvious, and did so as much in reference to the 33-year-old’s refusal to buckle to injury as the excellence of his display against Saints.
Most Worcester supporters will remember that game not as much for the 12-3 scoreline as for the incident when Perry’s knee collapsed with no culprit in even the same postal district.
After treatment on the pitch Perry turned in a man of the match performance that impressed teak-tough Hill, especially since it looked for all the world as though the former Dudley Kingswinford and Coventry play-maker had sustained serious damage in what he later referred to as ‘a good shot by the sniper’.
The initial prognosis was not good. A statement by Perry’s management company suggested surgery was inevitable and Worcester were forced to face the rest of the season without their most senior scrum-half.
However, subsequent assessments by two specialists revealed the damage was not as bad as first feared and the operating table was dissembled, indeed after just a couple of weeks out Perry was back against Wasps last Friday.
“The surgeon says that he has such a strong leg, with huge thighs that he doesn’t need to operate,” Hill said. “He has a big impact on the way we play, I am delighted he is OK.”
Leicester Lip, Austin Healey who was commentating at the time somewhat prophetically opined: “Lazarus.”
Hill has also described how he had not originally intended to re-sign the man he handed his first professional contract at Bristol, indeed the pair had only intended to meet up to share a cuppa and a few memories.
Perry clearly had other ideas.
“I have always wanted to play for Worcester. I am from the area, I played against their junior section as a kid. The first-team pitch was where the car park is and there used to be a brook where we used to play between matches.
“The icing on the cake for me was having Hilly here as coach. At Worcester they give you everything you need to be the best you can be. There is no stone left unturned and no corners cut.
“The facilities are amazing here, not just on the pitch but off it with the physios, the strength and conditioning. Everything is top-notch.”
Which is probably why Perry agreed to sign an initial one-year deal, which will surely be extended or renegotiated pretty soon if the player’s form and coach’s admiration is anything to go by.
Indeed, perhaps one sign of that is the fact Perry and his wife, a sports lawyer, have decided to move away from Bristol and return to the Hagley-Stourbridge area.
That will enable him to return to his Alma mater at DK even more regularly than he currently does. “I go down quite a bit, whenever I can. My father-in-law is on the committee,” he said.
“I would like to try and get involved with the coaching, just to pass my knowledge on to whoever is willing to listen. We will see, it’s pretty busy here at the moment. Will I go back and play for them one day? Never say never. I want to try and play for Worcester for as long as I can, that’s my main objective.
“In the future you never know. I thought I would always be at Bristol then within a year I was playing out in France.”
Perry’s rise was so meteoric it is difficult to fathom, that is at least after he was tempted from his Heathbrook hidey-hole at the relatively advanced age of 25.
A couple of stop-start seasons at Coventry ended with him playing so well against Hill’s promotion-bound Bristol, the coach decided to take him with him to the Premiership in 2005.
Within 18 months he was in the England side and within two years he was starting in a World Cup. He’d barely had chance to post his welding equipment on eBay.
“People say to me should I have gone up sooner, or not played for DK for as long. They are all ifs and buts, I still made it as a professional, still played for my country and am still a professional player now.
“I could have gone sooner and got lost in an academy somewhere and not made it through to the first team.
“It’s worked out and I have enjoyed it. I did enjoy my job, it was long hours but it makes you appreciate things more.”
For that reason he wants his rugby journey to continue for as long as possible. He starts level two coaching badge soon and while he hasn’t got his eyes set on Hill’s job – ‘Can you imagine if I said that to him?’ – he will not turn game-keeper without the ambition that took him to Bristol, Brive and England.
“I just want to keep involved in it. At the end of the day I play the sport because I love it, I came to it late so to stay involved in it is what I want to do. It was my hobby and then it became a job.
“But you need to get some experience first, you can’t just go in and say ‘Look at me, I’ve played in the Premiership’. Some have and some have done really well. But it is a massive pressure.
“Week in week out the amount of stuff the Premiership coaches have to cover is hard graft.” Which, recent events show, is something Perry has the legs and appetite for.