Lions prop Phil Vickery’s latest comeback was hailed as nothing short of ‘remarkable’ after he started his first game for six months on Saturday night.
The double Lions tourist had been out of action since October following back and neck problems but he returned to action in fine style in the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final.
Having come on as a replacement in last week’s league clash with Bath, Vickery started the European tie against Cardiff Blues and immediately reminded supporters exactly what he is capable of.
Vickery and fellow Lion Tim Payne were part of a powerful Wasps scrum that dominated a Blues unit that included Lions loosehead Gethin Jenkins who lined up directly opposite Vickery at Adams Park.
“Phil Vickery was superb for 80 minutes after such a long time out…especially when you consider the injuries and operations he had,” said Wasps boss Tony Hanks after Vickery made a mockery of the fact that he has now undergone career-threatening spinal surgery four times.
“Just to come back and play is remarkable. I don’t think anyone would have blamed Vicks for just saying, ’Sod this, I’m off’.
“But he’s made of strong stuff and he’s probably in the best shape I’ve seen him in since I’ve been back at the club.
“No (it wasn’t any easy game to come back in) – their loosehead’s not bad is he? Again, it just showed real quality in coming back.”
Vickery ‘s high-profile return and fine form at the weekend has already prompted discussion of an immediate international recall as England prepare for a Test series against Australia.
But although Hanks publicly stated that the ball is very much in England’s court, Vickery’s club coach hinted that he would prefer to see his veteran prop given a summer off rather than sent Down Under so soon after recovering from such a serious injury.
“With a really good offseason, he can comeback with some real confidence next year,” added Hanks.
“I don’t think Phil’s got too much to prove. If we can keep his physical development where it’s at, he can come back into the season like that. He belies his age with his enthusiasm and energy so we want to capitalise on that.
“Whether he tours is up to England and we’ll keep talking to them and I’m sure they’ll do the right thing by Vicks.”
Vickery himself isn’t looking that far ahead, with the 34-year-old admitting he is just thankful to have got through 80 minutes following such a lengthy and serious absence.
"I’m three weeks back from something fairly major," said Vickery.
"Although I’m feeling a little bit more confident and much better about myself, it’s still early days.
"What is important to me is that I’ve got through a game, because until you do the doubts remain. I needed to know. I didn’t want to spend all summer wondering."