Josh Beaumont returned in style on Saturday as he came off the bench against Gloucester after a 14-month injury setback and scored the winning try to give new boss Paul Deacon his first win.
His return has been a long time coming and having lost their first three games under new head coach Deacon, his try off the bench was perhaps the inspiration Sale needed.
You could see by the jubilant reaction of Marland Yarde (who returned from his long-term injury not so long ago) as Beaumont managed to force the ball over the line, that it meant more than just winning a game.
Beaumont had been a regular and important aspect of the Sharks’ team before his injury and so to have him back, having such an important impact off the bench and easing the pressure on Deacon, was the best New Year gift Sale could have got.
On how special his return was and scoring off the bench, Beaumont was clearly delighted but also relieved that his long road to recovery was finally over.
He said: “A lot’s happened in 14 months time in the world and yeah it’s frustrating but it was almost worth it to get back on the field and get to score the try was a special moment, to be honest.
“It’s a feeling that you miss, miss being part of that team environment and being around the guys and that buzz you get after a win.”
As he waited patiently on the bench to make his long-awaited return, Beaumont was trying to envisage what it would be like.
He said: “You try to picture in your head before you get out, I think for me I just wanted to get a bit of the action straight away because my knee had been tested for the previous two weeks in training so I was pretty confident with my knee and I was raring to go.
“The way the game was with that arm wrestle, I know it was quite a pressurised situation to be coming in and I couldn’t let the team down, so there was obviously a bit of nerves.”
He went on to describe the injury against Wasps which forced him into a period on the sidelines and how it proved to be more complicated than initially thought.
He said: “The Wasps game back in the start of November, in the second-half going for a line-out and my patellar ruptured, you get different grades of how bad they are and mine was a quite serious high-grade tare.
“Quite a complicated operation followed and because of the lengthy operation, it got infected but that was picked up a bit later and the second operation followed in January 2020.
“The rehab was coming along quite nicely and then the lockdown happened and it kind of meant I couldn’t accelerate my rehab process, I was doing some at home but at a slower rate.”
When he finally returned to training in July he was hopeful he would be able to help the Sharks in their play-off push but the reality was a lot starker.
He found it too painful in training and having spoken to a specialist, he discovered tissue in the scan, resulting in yet another operation and setback for the 27-year old.
On being cleared of the injury for good in the last few weeks, Beaumont said: “Finally that [operation] cleared it all up and the difference is really stark in terms of the pain I was getting before, it was a long process.”
Beaumont has spent the last two years completing his MBA at the University of Salford and so despite his knee injury in November 2019 resulting in a lengthy layoff, he has been able to keep busy.
On studying for his MBA, Beaumont said: “Luckily I was already studying for an MBA anyway, started that two years ago so at least I had that distraction, I had a few assignments to keep going with.”
Beaumont confessed that in his darkest moments he did consider giving up and leaving rugby behind but he was glad he persevered and his family would have been watching with pride as he made his return for Sale after a long and challenging battle with injury.