SHINGLER: MY CAREER FEARS
WALES back-rower Aaron Shingler has revealed he feared he’d never play again after suffering a serious knee injury last year.
Last May the towering forward tore his ACL and damaged his meniscus cartilage in the 2018 Guinness PRO14 final in which the Scarlets were beaten by Leinster.
That was the last time he was seen on a rugby field, having required major knee surgery to repair the damage and a further clean-out operation earlier this year.
Amid the daily grind of rehabilitation there were many dark moments and the 31-year-old worried it might all be over.
“It was massively difficult,” he said at Wales’s training camp in Switzerland.
“Up until the eight-month mark I was thinking that I wasn’t going to come back. I just couldn’t function daily.
“I’d have one good session and then the next day I wouldn’t be able to train.
“When I came into camp I was a little bit concerned with how I was going to cope but I’m feeling really fit and strong at the moment.”
Amid those dark days he was forced to move back in with his parents and required the help of his father to get around. But the burning desire to pull on the red jersey once again kept him going.
“I want to be a rugby player. I want to play for Wales and the Scarlets,” he said.
“So I just kept pushing. For eight months I was questioning whether the leg would be good enough. Luckily enough it is, so I’m very happy to just be able to train.”
It says a lot about how Shingler is viewed by the management that he was named in Wales’s training squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup having not played in a year.
He’s been thrust into the middle of a piping hot battle for limited places in Wales’s back-row squadron as competition continues in the Swiss Alps.
Wales are reaping the benefits of altitude as they ramp up their preparation for the global gathering later this year. They are training at around 1,000 metres above sea level and living up the mountain at 2,222 metres.
Shingler gave a candid insight into how the altitude has been affecting the players.
“I remember the first night I was up there, trying to get to sleep, and my heart was beating a lot harder than normal, which is unusual,” he explained.
“You get up for the toilet in the night and you have to climb a little bit of stairs and my heart is beating again.
“It just feels like you’re working when you’re sleeping. So that’s what it’s like up the top.
“At the moment I’m not getting that feeling.
“But we went up even higher a couple of days ago to around 3,000 metres and it’s hard to breathe.
“You’re just sitting around and you’re just working to breathe. It is effective.”
When Wales are done in Switzerland, they’ll face warm-up matches against England and Ireland, with a heat camp in Turkey thrown in the middle.
Shingler will almost certainly get the chance to show what he can do in those warm-up matches and he’s relishing the opportunity.
“I’d say I’m nearly where I want to be. A couple more weeks of training with Wales and I’ll hopefully get an opportunity,” he said. “If that opportunity comes then I feel like I’ll be ready.”
Aaron Shingler pictured during Wales’s World Cup training camp in Fiesch, Switzerland.
Aaron Shingler walks off the field on crutches following the defeat by Leinster in 2018.