Richmond second row Sam Collingridge was in an optimistic mood as he looked ahead to a clash with London rivals and table-toppers Ealing Trailfinders.
Collingridge, 23, was on an Academy contract at London Irish between 2017 and 2020 but a string of shoulder injuries and covid-enforced salary cuts meant he was released during the pandemic.
In the space of 18 months he managed to dislocate both shoulders twice, with each re-occurrence of the injury happening days before he was due to return to action.
Such were the issues with his rehabilitation, Collingridge’s case prompted Irish to stop using the shorter-term recovery soft tissue surgeries for dislocations in favour of longer-term Latarjet procedure.
He said: “They stopped doing soft tissue surgeries at Irish because of me; unfortunately they’re almost guaranteed to fail and it just depends on the timeline of when that’s going to happen.
“I missed my first two years of pro rugby, came back for my third year and, as you would be, I was extremely rusty.”
His raw potential as a 17-year-old had earned him enough credibility to get him three separate one-year deals, but as the combination of no senior games and the pandemic put pay to his hopes of another deal or senior contract.
He said: “If covid hadn’t happened, they might have offered me another year in the senior academy but there were number of other academy players around me in my position.
“I would’ve probably been a bit of a risk to keep hold of as I didn’t have any experience and the coaches didn’t have any gameplay to go off.”
Since joining Richmond in June of last year however, he has looked to re-build his career in the Championship.
He said: “I still don’t feel like I’m at the place that I want to be in terms of the rugby I’m playing, like I’m back to where I was when I was 17 before I had my first of the injuries.
“When I was at Irish and even last year I was still worried about re-injuring the shoulders and stuff like that, that’s not something I consider too much anymore.
“I just need to play rugby, that’s the solution, to play as much rugby as I can and get a bit of my mojo back basically.
“This year I’ve been in and out a bit which has been disappointing but I’m hoping I can get a few games under my belt and show them what I’m about.”
After the end of his second season at Irish, Sam started a law degree at the Open University due to be completed in June 2022.
Whilst the degree was a motivator to keep chasing the dream until he had finished it, he is keeping in mind the fact it is approaching the end, and rumours of restructuring between England’s top two divisions.
Nevertheless, remaining optimistic about the future of the Championship, he is also not ruling out continuing to fight for a professional future beyond the end of the season.
He said: “For me personally, I haven’t given myself a massive ultimatum that if I don’t break into Premiership contention by the end of the year I’ll give up and say ‘see you later’.
“If anything I think the Championship will be a better league next year, I really do.
“It’s going to be more competitive and if the rumours about ringfencing are true, the Championship will become such a playground for young players looking to make the step up into the Prem.
“It’ll mean rugby fans want to watch the Championship because you’re going to see a higher quality of player, and younger players who will soon be in the Prem, as Premiership teams use it for loan destinations.”
Much of the talk of re-structuring has been prompted by the fact that Ealing, the Championship’s most wealthy club, may be promoted this year, and become the natural final piece in the puzzle to establish a 14-team Premiership.
Richmond face Ealing this Saturday, and in the short-term, Collingridge’s focus is ensuring that his side halt their four-game losing run and achieve the upper mid-table they set themselves at the start of the season.
“Looking back on it we probably should have won more, we’re just not starting games very well at all.”
“Teams get so far ahead that they basically just park the bus and we give away penalties and yellow cards and that’s it: game over.
“I really like what Ealing are doing, I do feel like they’re going to win the league this year and compete well if they get to the Premiership.
“But we beat them at home a couple of years ago and if we get a decent start you never know.
“In the first twenty minutes, something is just not quite clicking, but it feels like a matter of 10% improvement and if we get that the second half of the season could be really exciting.”
Richmond play Ealing Trailfinders Tomorrow (11/12) at 3pm at the Athletic. Tickets can be purchased here.
Featured Image provided by Richmond RFC