Rugby: Saracens’ Rhodes back on track

Saracens' Michael Rhodes celebrates with the European Champions Cup in May (pic Mike Egerton/PA)

Saracens' Michael Rhodes celebrates with the European Champions Cup in May (pic Mike Egerton/PA) - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Saracens flanker Michael Rhodes’ England mission is back on track thanks to an operation to fuse a piece of his hip into his collarbone.

Rhodes played through the pain of an undiagnosed broken collarbone for four years, with the long-standing injury only coming to light after Saracens’ 28-17 Champions Cup final victory over Clermont in May.

The 29-year-old broke the same collarbone for the second time as Saracens retained their European title in Edinburgh, with medics later uncovering the full extent of his historic problem.

South Africa-born Rhodes will qualify for England on residency in July next summer, with boss Eddie Jones closely monitoring his progress.

And now the former Stormers back-rower has shaken off his troublesome shoulder concern, he can edge closer to a future England call-up - even though he admits he must strike any thoughts of Test ambitions from his mind.

“It was an injury from four years ago when I was down in Cape Town, it was misdiagnosed,” said Rhodes.

“It was a broken collarbone, and I injured it again in the final against Clermont.

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“They’ve cut a piece of bone out of my hip and replaced a piece of bone in my collarbone, with a plate and a couple of other things.

“So it ended up being something that could have been prevented four years ago, but it’s kind of come right now.

“The tip of my collarbone broke off and cartilage formed into the break, effectively creating a new joint.

“I played with that with discomfort, rehabbing and strengthening the muscles around it, and I managed to play for four years.

“And after the Clermont game, I went for a scan and they found out it had actually broken.

“It’s an unusual operation to have to repair it, my surgeon said he had done it once before.”

Rhodes climbed off the bench for the final 20 minutes of Saracens’ 55-24 thrashing of Northampton at Twickenham that kick-started the European champions’ Premiership campaign last weekend.

The combative flanker hopes to accelerate his return to full fitness in the coming weeks, but conceded his long-term England ambitions remain in the back of his mind.

England boss Jones has previously called Rhodes to tell him to keep up the good work, but the Saracens star does not now expect any further contact until he becomes eligible for Test selection.

“I was in a sling for three-and-a-half months, so it was great to get 20 minutes off the bench, it’s feeling all right,” added Rhodes.

“I just strapped it up, put on a bit of padding and it felt okay.

“I haven’t spoken to him (Eddie Jones) again. I think I’ve said all along England’s not something I intend to focus too much on.

“Across a year in rugby you can go from potentially knocking on the door to being a long way off, so there’s been no communication since the last time and I don’t really expect too much before I qualify anyway.

“I had just a brief phone call with Eddie before, but that was a while ago. He just said keep up the good work, I’ve got my eye on you and things like that.

“He’s focusing on the players he’s got of course.”

Saracens travel to Bath on Saturday (2pm), with Rhodes and Chris Wyles coming into the squad in place of Sean Maitland and George Kruis.

Summer signings Christopher Tolofua and Liam Williams could make their debuts from the bench, with Mako Vunipola and Owen Farrell also among the replacements.

Saracens: Goode; Earle, Taylor, Barritt (capt), Wyles; Lozowski, Wigglesworth; Barrington, Brits, Koch; Day, Itoje; Rhodes, Burger, Wray.

Replacements: Tolofua, Vunipola, Figallo, Isiekwe, Earl, Spencer, Farrell, Williams.