Aaron Shingler of the Scarlets. Pic: Getty Images.

Scarlets Seek Euro Spot As “Legend” Aaron Shingler Returns For Munster Mission

The Scarlets are in Munster on Friday night, where one player will mark a special anniversary. It is a year since Aaron Shingler last played a game, but the clash at Thomond Park sees his return where Glenn Delaney’s side aim to clinch their European spot for next season, as Graham Thomas reports.

Aaron Shingler has been described as a Scarlets legend as he prepares to finally return to action after a year of pain and uncertainty.

The Wales forward was last seen on a rugby field in March of 2020 when he was on the losing side for Wales against England at Twickenham.

While most players ticked over through the first lockdown that followed, Shingler developed a mystery inflammation in his leg that required specialist investigation from a rheumatologist.

But 12 months on from his last appearance, the flanker will make his comeback on Friday night in the Scarlets team that faces Munster at Limerick’s Thomond Park – a match that is live on S4C.

“Aaron is a legend of the club and it means a huge amount to have him back,” says Scarlets skipper Steff Hughes.

“What he brings to our game is absolutely massive. Everyone respects him and just loves how he goes about his work.

“He has been working really hard in the background and he’s put in a real shift to get back. It will be a brilliant achievement for him to get back out there, express himself, and hopefully get back to the level he was at before he got the injury.”

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The 33-year-old Shingler is not unfamiliar with picking up the threads and knitting them strongly back together when he returns from injury.

A serious knee problem seemed to have scuppered his hopes of making the 2019 World Cup, but the 6ft 6in back row forward managed to return and ended up playing in six matches under Warren Gatland at the tournament in Japan.

Now, he will resume action again at one of the deepest of deep ends in the Guinness Pro14, an away game at Munster, where the home side have only lost once this season.

In fact, the Munstermen have not lost at home to Welsh opposition in more than four years, although the Scarlets have a decent record there and were the last Welsh team to win at Thomond Park back in February 2017.

Scarlets coach Glenn Delaney has described how Shingler’s condition was a difficult one to diagnose, initially, leading to uncertainty over how much time he would spend on the sidelines.

Three months was the original estimate, but that became eight and put paid to any hopes of him resuming his international career in this season’s Six Nations.

Delaney has paid tribute to the role of Shingler’s partner Kate in his convalescence and Hughes also believes a season without supporters has made family back-up for all players more important than ever.

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“It’s been difficult for families this season because they have not been able to come to games and support us,” says Hughes.

“But they pick us up when things aren’t going well and they keep us grounded when they are. It’s something we pride ourselves on – that we have that support, that the club is like a big family and it’s more than just a marketing phrase.”

The Scarlets currently lay third in Conference B and can clinch their place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup with a victory that would wrap up their place in the conference’s top three.

Last week’s impressive 27-25 victory in Edinburgh lifted Delaney’s side eight points clear of Cardiff Blues with just two matches remaining.

But runaway Conference B leaders Munster will be seeking their fifth successive victory since they lost to rivals Leinster back in January.

Shingler could easily have chosen a softer return, but Delaney has no doubts the 27-times capped forward can hit the ground running and play a significant role for the Scarlets in the final few weeks of the campaign.

Scarlets’ head coach Glenn Delaney. Pic: Getty Images.

“Athletically, Aaron is incredibly gifted so once he gets his timing back, I think he’ll be feeling pretty comfortable within a couple of games,” says Delaney.

“He’s pretty bloody-minded. You saw how he came back before the World Cup, it was impressive. That’s because he is a pretty clear-headed, mentally strong individual.

“I’ve never had concerns about the mental side because he is a process, task-focussed individual, he just goes from task to task.

“He is a pretty resilient character, he knows his body well, he’s brilliantly supported at home and he’s a competitor. When you see him flying into mauls and making big collisions, then you know he’s ready to go.”

 

S4C- Friday, 7.55pm: Clwb Rygbi

Munster v Scarlets

Live coverage of the Guinness PRO14 rugby match between Munster and the Scarlets, from Thomond Park, Limerick. K/O 8.00.

 

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