RHYS Crane will make a dramatic return for London Welsh against Bristol tonight – eight months after his last appearance.
Crane starts on the wing for the play-off final first leg clash (7.45), having worked his way back from a severe hamstring injury.
That came on his debut at Nottingham on September 22, which also yielded a try in Welsh’s 46-19 victory.
“I am excited and thankful I got another opportunity to play this season,” said Crane.
“With my injury, I hoped I might get another go, but is always nice to get the call-up.
“I ruptured my hamstring and tore it off the bone.
“I had an operation and was out for five or six months.
“I then had some teething problems coming back – tight hamstrings, tight groins and things like that.”
Crane was loaned to National 1 club Blackheath to find match fitness before finally getting his chance.
“I just kept my head down, trained hard and reaped the rewards,” he said.
“I feel fresh. I guess most people have played a lot of games by this point and have got wear and tear.
“I am eager to play. I want to get out there and show people what I’m about.”
“I am only halfway there. Selection is halfway.
“I have got to front up because obviously I want to play in the next one as well.”
Crane is one of three changes made by head coach Justin Burnell, with No 8 Daniel Browne and scrum half Chris Cook the others.
Seb Stegmann moves from wing to full back to replace Alan Awcock, while back-row forward Richard Thorpe returns on the bench after his red card at Bristol.
Burnell said: “What do people know about Rhys Crane? I wouldn’t have thought a lot.
“I think he will be the surprise package.”
Nick Koster comes in at blindside flanker for Bristol Scrum half Luke Baldwin, hooker Ross Johnston and former England prop Jason Hobson also return.
London Welsh: Stegmann, Crane, May (capt), Jewell, Scott, Ross, Cook, Trevett, Morris, Edwards, Spencer, Corker, P Browne, Kirwan, D Browne. Reps: Vella, Bristow, Tideswell, West, Thorpe, R Lewis, Awcock.
Bristol: Wallace, Watkins, Tovey, Mosses, Short; Robinson, Baldwin, Traynor, Johnston, Hobson, Glynn, Townson, Koster, Mama, Jones (capt). Reps: Lawrence, Hall, Eadie, Skirving, Tipuna, Jarvis, Hughes.