Fit-again centre Chris Harris is ready to seize his European Challenge Cup chance as Newcastle Falcons prepare to host Ospreys on Saturday (kick-off 5pm).
Having spent four months out with an ankle injury the Cumbrian scored a try less than 10 minutes into his return at Grenoble last Friday, saying: “I was eager to get out there again.
“It was more a test of fitness than how the ankle went, and it all went to plan. I was blowing pretty hard, which was always going to be the case, but I came through it.
“I am just itching to go. I can use these cup games as a chance to come in, play well and try to get my spot back, but it’s not going to be an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. The boys have gone well, and do you change a team that is doing well?
“That is not down to me to decide – all I can do is put myself in the best possible position by playing well whenever I am in the side.”
Looking back on his September injury, Harris explained: “It has been a frustrating start to the season because I felt good, and believed I was playing pretty well when I injured my ankle down at Bath in the second Aviva Premiership game.
“That is the nature of the game and I have had injuries before, so you just accept it. The boys have been doing well, I’m really happy for them and it’s great to see the club flying again.
“In terms of the injury itself I was tackled from behind, and I snapped a ligament on the inside of my ankle fully off the bone. I had it operated on in Basingstoke by a good man called Michael Calder, and it has been a four-month process from there.
“Following the operation to reattach the ligament there was a two-week period where I literally could do nothing. I was basically bed-bound or couch-bound, which meant a lot of Netflix and cups of tea with my foot in the air in a cast. People might say that has its pros and cons because you get through a few box sets, but after that initial period of just switching off for a couple of weeks it has been a long, hard rehab.
“The medical staff and the strength and conditioning guys have done a good job in getting me back. There have been lots of changes of direction, getting up off the floor and all the various movements you have to do in rugby, so I’d already done all of that by the time I returned to training.
“Going into the Grenoble game I’d already had a couple of weeks in full training, so there weren’t any issues on the confidence side of things. It was a little bit different when you are coming back from shoulder injuries because there is a big emphasis on that first tackle, but it has been different with this one.”
Having tasted defeat upon his return last week in a 31-27 reverse at Stade des Alpes, Harris said: “It was a frustrating game to play in because we didn’t have a lot of ball. We had around 39% possession, half of which was inside our own half, so there wasn’t much attacking ball. I think I touched the ball twice, and hopefully against Ospreys this weekend I’ll get a bit more in hand. It’s back on our home patch and I’m just keen to get out there.
“I don’t think we played well last week, to be honest. We gifted them the game, we didn’t defend well but from a personal aspect I was glad to get through it. I got a good run-out under my belt in terms of the injury, and it was pleasing in that sense.”
Keen for his team to atone for the heavy defeat they suffered away to Ospreys earlier in the campaign, he added: “We didn’t really turn up that night.
“They are a quality side and it will be a big test for us, but we have learnt from the away game and know more about what to expect. We are on our own pitch, which works to our advantage, and I think the team is in a good place now. Everyone is raring to go.
“You think about the opposition because you have to be properly prepared, but you don’t overly focus on them. We are going into the game to play our own pattern and our own shape, and while we are aware of what Ospreys will bring we believe we can come away with the win if we play what we’ve worked on.”
Keen to play his part for a Falcons side who have shown an upturn in form this season, Harris said: “The lads have done fantastic, to be honest. We should have done a little bit better in terms of our league position, and probably haven’t been flying as much as we would have liked in the European Challenge Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup. But in our recent run against the top three Premiership teams we have played some great rugby, had a win and a couple of bonus points, and we feel like we are in a good place.”
Tickets for Saturday’s 5pm kick-off against Ospreys are available by calling 0871 226 6060, clicking here or from Kingston Park Stadium in person.