Carmichael Relishes First Return to Action in 15 Months

For any professional sportsman, missing a handful of games due to injury has to be frustrating, never mind missing a full season. And so, it was of no surprise that Edinburgh Rugby lock Lewis Carmichael was delighted to be back on the pitch yesterday following a near 15 month injury lay off.

Lewis Carmichael (above, congratulating Jamie Farndale on his try) returned to the Edinburgh starting line-up following a lengthy battle with injury. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)

The 24-year-old forward was enjoying a run of impressive form and regular selection for Edinburgh at the tail-end of the 2017/18 season, making it seem inevitable to many that – following a successful summer tour with the national team – he would begin challenging for a place in Gregor Townsend’s Six Nations squad in the spring.

Sport is nothing if not cruel though as Carmichael was dealt the blow of a concussion issue during the approach to the 2018/19 season – an issue which would plague him for a number of months. He looked set to return in the new year, a return which was once more halted – this time by an ACL tear which ultimately required surgery.

Thus, it was welcome sight yesterday as the lock emerged from the tunnel with his teammates to take to the Murrayfield turf to face off against the Ospreys in the last of Edinburgh’s pre-season friendlies.

“I’m absolutely buzzing to be back out there,” the lock declared post-match. “It’s just under 15 months since I played my last game of rugby, so I’m glad to be back out there with the boys.”

It wasn’t without patience and resilience that Carmichael reached this point, something he fully acknowledges was a hard experience to weather: “Yeah, it is tough. Being out that long, it can get pretty dark at times, but you’ve just got to trust the process that you will come back.

“You’ve just got to listen to the physios and the strength-and-conditioning coaches – just trust them that you’ll come back to full fitness, to be honest.”

The North-Berwick native seems to have returned to the fold at a rather opportune time, as experienced starting second rows Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis are both away on international duty with Scotland in Japan for the Rugby World Cup.

“It is nice, I’m not going to lie,” Carmichael relented. “It’s great for Grant Gilchrist and Ben Toolis to be away at the World Cup, but it’s also great for me and other younger guys like Jamie Hodgson that there are opportunities, and we’ll get a bit of game time with those boys being away. It’s good for myself and for the squad to get those opportunities.”

The aforementioned opportunities will include proving himself not to have lost any of his lineout management abilities. Before injury, Carmichael had established himself as more than capable at calling the set piece, and as being a reliable receiver.

He admitted: “Lineouts are something that I pride myself on. I like to think of myself as being very good at lineouts and I love leading it, taking charge of it. I was calling the lineouts today for the first 55 minutes, when I came off, and I think they went very well. It’s something I’ve really enjoyed and hopefully I’ll continue to do so.”

It won’t be as easy as returning and slotting himself straight back in to the starting line-up each week, as Carmichael still faces competition from four more of his teammates – the experienced Fraser McKenzie, fellow youngster Jamie Hodgson, and new signings Murray Douglas and Sam Thomson.

Carmichael is fully prepared to accept the challenge however: “Competition’s always good – it brings out the best in us. It’s good having a lot of second rows there – we all push each other on. The more the merrier, to be honest.”

Edinburgh fans will have to wait until the first game of the regular season – against Zebre on Saturday 28th September – to see if Carmichael has made any more progress in reclaiming, and securing, that starting second row spot.

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