Dan Baker hopes to pick up the threads of his rugby career this weekend, almost 700 days after the devastating injury that threatened to send the Wales international into premature retirement.
The three-cap No. 8, once mooted in some quarters as a potential rival to Taulupe Faletau, is expected to feature off the bench for the Ospreys in their friendly with Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Saturday.
It will be exactly 699 days since the flame-haired back rower shattered a knee while playing against Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Champions Cup.
The recovery road has seen him undergo two operations, and it is hard to imagine many make it back after being incapacitated for so long in the professional game.
But Baker has shown immense fortitude while attempting to salvage his career.
He has seen his hopes dashed of returning before now, so he will not take anything for granted until he is actually back on the pitch. But the Ospreys are hopeful he is good to go and in their provisional squad selection for the trip to the Scottish capital they have named him among the replacements.
It would take a hard heart not to feel anything but pleased for him.
The roof fell in on his rugby world on the night of October 15, 2017, when he sustained a multi-dimensional bump that proved a shocker even in the injury-ravaged world of modern rugby.
He had been trying to play his part in executing a pre-planned line-out move. But it all went disastrously wrong and the Ystradgynlais product ended up stretched out in agony on the Liberty Stadium turf.
He has since told WalesOnline: “From my hip to my toes it was just horrific pain.
“I can remember the seconds before quite clearly. There was a line-out throw over the top, with me covering the back and catching the ball. But when I hit the ground my leg straightened and someone landed on top of me, meaning I hyper-extended my leg.
“As soon as I hit the floor I was in agony.
“I’d damaged the anterior crucial ligament (ACL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). Basically, the top of my ligament had ripped off the head of my fibula.
“There have been two operations.
“The worse thing was having to have the second bout of surgery. I’d been coming back so well, but there came a point when I wasn’t feel right. I had the sensation that I was hyper-extending my knee all over again. It was unstable and obviously still a problem, so the physios went back to the surgeons.
“The surgeon used my quad tendon and patella to reconstruct the damaged area.
“All the rehab that I’d already done, I had to do again.”
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Now there finally appears light at the end of a long dark tunnel.
It’s a lift for the Ospreys as Baker, formerly the possessor of a dual contract, offers a point of difference with his fast feet and ability to take the ball forward.
And he is young enough to have Wales aspirations if he can complete his return without mishap and rebuild his form.
“We don’t want to put too much pressure on him and his priority now is just to work his way back,” Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke has told WalesOnline.
“When he’s fit and firing, he’s an asset as a dynamic ball-carrier.
“Hopefully, Dan will still have a lot to offer.”
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