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Wales’ Macleod thrilled to make long-overdue debut after injury nightmares

Wales’ Macleod thrilled to make long-overdue debut after injury nightmares

Josh Macleod 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship Round 1, Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales 7/2/2021 Wales vs Ireland Wales' Josh Macleod Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

It may not have been a dream debut for Wales’ Josh Macleod but starting against Georgia was an occasion the Scarlets loose forward has been dreaming about for years.

There were few positives to take from the 13-12 loss to the Lelos from a Welsh perspective, but Jac Morgan’s brace of tries and Macleod’s first cap were two big silver linings.

Had it not been for injury setbacks in 2020 where a hamstring problem sent him home from Wales’ Autumn Nations Cup squad and then again in 2021, Macleod would have sealed his international bow much sooner.

But with covid restrictions lifted, the 26-year-old was able to run out in the famous red jersey with friends and family cheering him on at Principality Stadium.

“It’s been a tough two years since the last call-up. I was just glad to get that monkey off my back,” he said.

“I’ll be honest it was very nice to have all the family there. Despite the result, it was a nice occasion personally.

“My partner told me at the time [of the Achilles injury] there was a reason I didn’t get out on to the pitch and that was because the little one was going to be there for the first time. Having her there made it that little bit more special and obviously my parents.

“I had an uncle fly over from Switzerland, so we had the whole gang there. My grandmother watched her first game of rugby probably since my debut with the Scarlets in 2016. It was really nice to have that lot there.”

And Macleod opened up on the intense frustration that came with the untimely Achilles injury that struck four days before he was due to start against Scotland in February 2021.

Two subsequent hamstring setbacks kept him from being selected for Wales’ Autumn Nations Series squad that year, as well as the 2022 Guinness Six Nations.

“I think mentally to take three blows like that was a first for me,” said Macleod. “I’ve had my fair share of bad luck in the past with injuries, but it’s always been a one off, then rehab and then you are back on the pitch for the next six months/year.

“It was that three hits in one which makes you feel a little bit separated from the boys because you are constantly rehabbing, and you are never on the training pitch.

“Mentally that was the hardest part for me but thankfully we are over that now. I had a strong support system around me.

“From a personal point of view, I knew I had it in me to come back and it was just that self-belief that kept driving me every day even at the toughest of times.”

Macleod is hoping to feature from the bench against Australia on Saturday and he revealed a debrief on Monday has imbued the group with renewed spirit heading into Wales’ final Test of 2022.

“They [conversations on Monday] were very honest,” said Macleod.

“It was a good day and we got a lot out of it. I think we have wiped that slate clean and now we are really pushing hard for Australia.

“As a squad, we were massively frustrated and disappointed with the result as a whole, but as Toby [Faletau] mentioned after the game, we are going to stick as one – management, players and staff.

“We’ve put Georgia to bed and all the disappointment with that, and we will move forward to this week with a positive attitude.

“Naturally, everyone says there will be a reaction after a defeat like that. Come Saturday, I am sure whoever takes the field will be ready.

“We’re missing a few, they’re [Australia] missing a few but it’s international rugby, and at this level everyone can step up and fill the jersey.”

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