Jack Willis taking recovery in his stride after knee surgery

Date published: October 1 2021 - Planet Rugby

England and Wasps back-row Jack Willis is taking his recovery from a major knee injury in his stride as he refuses to be sucked into timelines.

Willis, 24, has revealed that he is currently running twice a week after seeing his promising rugby career stalled just over seven months ago.

A Six Nations bow against Italy saw him score a try, but ended shortly afterwards when he suffered serious ligament and meniscus damage.

Bumps in the road

And while he admits to “a few bumps in the road” on the comeback trail following surgery, flanker Willis continues to make positive strides.

He has even discovered a new team-mate along the way – former Wales and West Brom striker Hal Robson-Kanu – who founded The Turmeric Co. three years ago, with Willis using their turmeric-based shots that provide an anti-inflammatory nutritional supplement.

“It is always a bumpy road being injured and a pretty frustrating one, to say the least, but I’ve had a pretty good few months building the knee strength up,” Willis said.

“There have been a few bumps in the road that always cause a little bit of a delay, but at the end of the day it all gets swallowed up, come the end. As long as the knee is right, that is the priority.

“It is not so much getting fixated on timelines – the priority has got to be is the knee ready to go? It is about the longevity and long-term health of the knee.

“These things change all the time. You get a little bump in the road and it sets you back a couple of weeks, or if things are going really well you can bring it forward.

“Mentally, I find it tougher if I fixate too much on dates and things. It just becomes a little bit overbearing.”

Willis, who was the Rugby Players’ Association players’ player and Premiership player of the season last year, ruptured his anterior cruciate knee ligament in 2018 that ended South Africa tour hopes with England.

He then went on to win three Test caps before injury again cut him down, and Willis has no doubt that he will be back.

“It is pretty much every day – get to training, do upper body weights, a bit of treatment from the physio, some rehab, lower leg-strength work in the gym, running twice a week and maybe a fitness top-up on the bike,” he added.

“It’s your day-to-day life that people don’t see, like not being able to make yourself a cup of tea when you are on crutches and carry it back to the sofa; not being able to walk your dog; not being able to play golf with your mates. It just takes over everything.

“You wake up thinking about your knee, and you go to bed thinking about your knee. There is a lot that goes through your head, unfortunately.

“When you are having down-days, your brain does spiral with all the ifs and buts of when you will be back. You always think the worst, don’t you? And that’s the trouble. But getting control of those thoughts again is important.

“When I am back, as long as I get the knee right, then hopefully I have got another 10 years ahead of me. For me, it is very much a case of when I will be back.

“It is a bit of a rollercoaster, but the end goal is being back out on that rugby pitch with my family cheering me on and playing alongside my brother (Tom) again in a Wasps shirt. Hopefully, it won’t be too long.”

Part of Willis’ rehabilitation is using turmeric, and he said: “It has been fantastic for my recovery, and helps keep any pain within my knee to a minimum.

“It has been a bit of a secret weapon. The shots are one of those little one per-centers around my training, just adding that extra little bit of recovery and looking after the knee’s health in the long run.”

* The Turmeric Co. has supported Jack Willis with his recovery from injury with its naturally produced shots. www.theturmeric.co

Saracens trio backed to reclaim England places

Meanwhile, Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has backed trio Jamie George, Mako Vunipola and Billy Vunipola to respond to their England snubs positively.

The experienced players were left out of a 45-man squad named by England head coach Eddie Jones for games against Tonga, Australia and South Africa.

Hooker George and prop Vunipola are poised to return to club duty in the coming weeks following rest periods due to their summer involvement with the British and Irish Lions, along with team-mates Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje.

Saracens boss McCall met with national team head coach Jones ahead of last week’s squad announcement and is confident his overlooked players can force their way back into England contention.