Llanelli Star - - RUGBY - MATTHEW SOUTHCOMBE Rugby writer [email protected]­

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.

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