Dan Cole admits seeing fellow British & Irish Lions fight their way back from surgery kept him in good spirits during a long and arduous year.
Cole, who toured Australia with Warren Gatland’s Lions squad in 2013, sustained a bulging disc in his neck early this year and only recently returned to action.
The rehabilitation included a three-month rest period and an operation in May – from which the prop has recovered quicker than expected.
That recovery did not come in time to force his way back into the England set up for last month’s autumn internationals, but Cole is once again taking to the field for Leicester Tigers.
And the 27-year-old revealed initial fears about the scale of his injury were eased by looking to his teammates.
“It’s not ideal,” he told Sportsmail. “I understand the forces that come through your neck. You don’t want to mess around with it but a fair few people have had the surgery I had.
“The surgeon has operated on most of the Leicester team! He’s done Tom Youngs’ back, Tom Croft’s neck, Miles Benjamin’s neck, Geoff Parling’s neck.
“Seeing them come back and play, you know you’ll be all right. It’s reassuring because it’s your livelihood.”