Flutey on the comeback trail
August 11, 2010
Riki Flutey is gearing up for a new season with Wasps © Getty Images
Riki Flutey is back in England after an injury-hit season in the Top 14 with Brive and the Wasps centre is very much on the comeback trail.
Flutey, 30, is close to full fitness after a long lay-off that included an operation to repair the AC joint in his left shoulder.
"My body's pretty good, although I'm still rehabbing the shoulder," he told ESPNscrum. "I've got my strength back and I'm doing everything except contact, which I'll start again next week. I should be ready to play again for the start of the season."
In Wasps' case that means their meeting with Harlequins at Twickenham on September 4, as part of the London Double Header. He leaves little doubt that he is glad to be back. "I'm delighted to be back with Wasps and the England elite squad, and my wife and children are very happy, as I am, to be back in London," he said.
The French venture, he emphasises, was unlucky rather than a mistake. "It was a great opportunity to play a different type of rugby and experience a different culture, and an opportunity for my family as well, giving the children a chance to learn a different language," he said. "But it didn't work out what way.
"Because of my injuries we were spending as much time in Britain as in Brive. We'd be there for a couple of weeks, back here for three, in Brive for four then in Britain for six. It was crazy and there was no way that my family could settle. That was the reason I left."
But his return to Wasps has made him appreciate what he implies he might once have taken for granted. "There's a terrific level of support for you in becoming a better player, and in getting and staying fit," he said. "There are three or four physios and six or seven trainers whose job is to get us 100% fit. It's a bit different in France where there might be a couple of physios and a trainer."
Quite how important that is to rugby players is emphasised by England boss Martin Johnson, who this week assembled his Elite Player Squads for a pre-season camp. "At this level pretty well everybody has got some degree of injury and you play through them regularly," he said. "Players get battered, they get bruised and we've got a group of people who put them back together."
Flutey is refreshed in both body and mind as he plots a return to the international stage. "I only played about 10 matches last year," he said. "I used the time to refresh myself and chill out. It was a really big break, and you need that sometimes. Because I didn't go on the England tour I was able to do the full pre-season with Wasps."
There'll be little chance of relaxation over the next year or so, with the initial challenges to re-establish himself at Wasps and add to his 13 England caps. England's victory in their second June Test in Australia will make it tough for players who missed the tour to reclaim their places, which Flutey says is how it should be.
"That's what you want - young players coming in and putting pressure on the older ones in the way that I tried to do when I was younger," he said. "It all makes the team that much better."
Beyond that looms the Rugby World Cup, which will inevitably bring back memories for a player who was a seven-year-old schoolboy in the Wairarapa community of Lake Fury when the competition was last played in New Zealand in 1987. Wairarapa native Brian Lochore, coach of the All Blacks team that dominated that tournament, brought his squad to Lake Fury to train. "It was amazing to see all the superstars who were my heroes and that I looked up to," Flutey said. "I can remember it as though it was yesterday."
Flutey won't think about the World Cup until other obstacles have been overcome, but leaves no doubt of his desire to go to New Zealand with England. "The opportunity to be in the squad and go to the World Cup would be just amazing," he said.