While 2008 concluded with the biggest of bombshells for Worcester Warriors, there does at least appear to be a glimmer of hope in 2009 for their director of rugby Mike Ruddock.
Following the revelation that influential centre Sam Tuitupou will be out for the rest of the season, Ruddock has been able to give a positive update on the injury situation of another one of his star backs.
Barely two months ago, winger Marcel Garvey, who enjoyed a renaissance last season with nine tries, was rumoured to be facing the prospect of missing the entire campaign with a mysterious hip injury.
The Gloucester-born player was on crutches, facing an operation and, at worst, the premature end of his rugby career.
However, things have changed for the better because Garvey’s rehabilitation now appears to be well under way and he might not even need an operation, according to Ruddock ahead of tomorrow’s home match with Sale Sharks.
Even more remarkable is the suggestion that Garvey could be back in contention for the Valentine’s Day showdown with Bath.
“We’ve got a couple of guys on the edge of getting back and having a bigger involvement, for example Marcel Garvey is doing a lot of skills work at the moment and also some running,” said Ruddock
“We are hoping that in two or three weeks he can return to some full training, so that will be a massive boost.
“We took a second opinion on Marcel’s injury and tried some alternatives and treatment. Thankfully the medication that was prescribed by the last specialist he saw seems to have speeded things up somewhat and suddenly he is back training with us without any problems
“We want to do it all properly and make sure he is right, but hopefully the further scans will show that he can start to go to the next level and look to drop back into training. So there’s some good news around the corner with Marcel.
“At the moment we are hoping that he won’t need an operation, hopefully things will keep progressing and he will be available perhaps for the Bath game; he will need a little bit of rugby under his belt before then but there’s a glimmer of hope.”
Following two consecutive Guinness Premiership draws that were preceded by very different emotions, Ruddock will just be wanting to feel the joy of victory after tomorrow’s match with Sale at Sixways.
The Sharks are fourth in the table with just three defeats all season, one of which was inflicted by Worcester in mid-November.
Ruddock is all too aware of the threat posed by Philippe Saint-Andre’s side, including the familiar face of fellow Welshman Dwayne Peel.
“Sale are a very strong team and they will be coming down here looking to beat us because they’ve got a good record at Sixways. Obviously we beat them earlier this season, but they would have had a number of stars missing on that occasion so they will be looking to put things right and bring the quality of people like (Sebastien) Chabal and (Luke) McAlister down here to look to beat us. It will be a massive test for us.
“We looked at the tapes and followed their progress, they don’t give a lot away and don’t make many mistakes. Their kicking game is excellent with (Charlie) Hodgson and (Mark) Cueto’s left foot and of course McAlister.
“They don’t give you much down their half of the field because they’ve got a great kicking game to get themselves out of there and when they are in your half they are going to attack you hard. They’ve got some big powerful forwards (Juan Martin Fernandez) Lobbe at eight is hugely effective for them and a catalyst for them in many ways.
“I see my old mate Dwayne Peel will play at nine; I have huge regard for Dwayne, he’s a fantastic rugby player and obviously some of the footage I have shown the players this week has included some great breaks from him, including one where he started a fantastic try for McAlister down in Bath the other week where he did a quick tap and go and showed his pace off the mark.”