Rhys Webb: Back to face Italy, by way of mobility scooter

Rhys Webb playing against England at Twickenham
Rhys Webb has scored five tries in 17 Tests for Wales

When Rhys Webb stepped on to the Principality Stadium pitch against Italy, he completed a journey which started at the same place against the same team seven months earlier.

Scrum-half Webb started for Wales for the first time since the ankle and foot injury that robbed him of a place in the 2015 World Cup.

He is playing with a metal plate in his foot after a rehabilitation which has taken in surgery, physiotherapy and his grandmother's mobility scooter.

"It's been a whirlwind for me. It hasn't sunk in yet to be honest," said the Ospreys player.

The injury came on 5 September, 2015 when Wales played Italy in their final warm-up game before the World Cup.

Webb got his foot trapped at a breakdown and collapsed under the weight of an Italian forward flopping over the ball. The first indication something serious had happened were the audible screams of pain picked up on referee Jerome Garces' microphone.

Rhys Webb
Webb was out of action for six months after his injury against Italy

"I knew straight away, it was job done really," he said.

"It was heartbreaking because I was in a good position and it meant a lot to me to be going into the World Cup wearing that number nine jersey.

"It was a mega blow and it took a couple of months to get over it. As soon as I was back on my feet and running I had a mind that I would just get back for maybe the Six Nations or the summer tour."

Webb wasn't Wales' only casualty in that match, as he recalls.

"The first thing I did when I got to hospital was get the match up on my mobile phone to see what was happening," he added.

"And I saw Leigh Halfpenny being taken off on a stretcher."

The Toulon full-back still hasn't played since that match.

Wales team
Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb presented the Wales team with their shirts before the World Cup game against Fiji

Webb, whose injury looked the more serious on the day, was back in action for the Ospreys on 14 February after his regional and national medical teams stopped him returning earlier.

"The way Ospreys and Wales managed me has been top drawer really," added Webb.

"They held me back for three weeks, just to get that extra bit of fitness and touch up on my skills and brought me back in slowly."

The biggest battle facing Webb in the initial stages was boredom, which is why his nan's mobility scooter came in handy. Stuck in the house and not able to put any weight on his leg, Webb borrowed the scooter to relieve the boredom and "just get out of the house".

Rhys Webb takes his grandmother's mobility scooter for a spin
Rhys Webb used his grandmother's mobility scooter to help in his recovery from injury

"We managed to chuck it in the back of my dad's van and brought it to the house," recalled Webb.

"Then I was just roaming around the streets on that to get out of the house, get some fresh air and walk the dog. I was wrapped up so people wouldn't recognise me."

During Webb's absence, Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies pulled on Wales' number nine shirt and scored five tries during the World Cup and another against Scotland in the Six Nations.

Webb made his return off the bench, replacing Davies against England and was subsequently named in Warren Gatland's team to play Italy.

He praises Davies' ability, but says he spends little time worrying about his rivals for the shirt.

Rhys Webb and Gareth Davies
Rhys Webb (left) and Gareth Davies have made 30 Wales appearances between them

"I'm not one to be short of confidence," he added. "It doesn't bother me one bit. I know what I can do.

"I work hard, keep myself fit, keep myself in the best shape I can and keep working on my passing and kicking game and running game and the rest looks after itself."

And does it worry him that his full return is against the team Wales were playing when he suffered his injury?

"I've had nasty injuries before but this was a different feeling - it wasn't the best," he admitted.

"But now it's done. I'm over it, and I'm in a pretty good place. So it's all positive now."

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