Michael Rhodes has been playing with a broken collar bone for four years which makes his outstanding form for Saracen even more remarkable. Rhodes, with a piece of his hip now attached to the bone thanks to surgery in the summer, will continue his bid to become part of England’s international future by starting for Saracens against Bath tomorrow with Lions stars Owen Farrell, Liam Williams and Mako Vunipola included amongst the replacements.
Maro Itoje starts in the second row but there is no place for England No8 Billy Vunipola or giant Wallaby lock Will Skelton who will both be expected to return from injury in Philadelphia against Newcastle in eight days time. Williams is set for his Sarries debut while Farrell and Mako Vunipola are eager to get their season started for the double European Champion Cup winners.
South African born Rhodes , who joined Sarries in 2015, qualifies for England under the old three year residency rule in July and has already spoken to Eddie Jones, the head coach, about his chances of becoming a back row option, although he can also operate in the second row.
The damaged area – an inch from the end of his right collar bone – cracked while he was playing in South Africa and having been misdiagnosed, cartilage grew around the break, but it cracked again when he made one of his trade marking crunching tackles in the Champions Cup final win over Clermont in Edinburgh. Rhodes now has a plate and screws over the crack and this is likely to remain attached to his shoulder for the rest of his career.
The 6ft 6ins flanker made it onto the pitch for the final quarter of Sarries stunning 55-24 win over Northampton but now he gets to start against a Bath back row of Lions No8 Taulupe Faletau, Matt Garvey and Springbok open side Francois Louw. Bath won 27-23 at Leicester on Saturday, their first win at Welford Road since 2003 to highlight the danger they pose.
Rhodes said:” I injured my shoulder in Cape Town four years ago and it was misdiagnosed when I broke the collar bone and I injured it again when we played Clermont and this summer took a piece of my hip and used it to repair my shoulder along with plate. It is something that could have been prevented four years ago but it is now right. The plate will remain unless it becomes a problem.
“I managed to play with discomfort for four years by strengthening the muscles around the area and it wasn’t until the scan after the Clermont game that I found out it was broken not a dislocation. I was in a sling for more than three months and it about getting back into contact and it was Ok after I came off the bench on Saturday. The surgeon said he had done the operation only once before for a Newcastle player and it is unusual because normally the break would have been spotted immediately and sorted out.”
Rhodes is joined in the Sarries back row by Jackson Wray and Schalk Burger with former Bath lock Dominic Day alongside Itoje in the second row while USA wing Chris Wyles takes over from Sean Maitland.
as seen in Evening Standard