Leeds Rhinos: Luke Gale provides injury update, reflects on 'tough' 2021 season and gives his thoughts on Super League semi-final showdown with St Helens
England scrum-half Luke Gale has reflected on a “tough old year” as he continues his recovery from a third major injury setback.
Gale hasn’t played since suffering damage to a medial collateral ligament (mcl) in Rhinos’ win at Leigh Centurions on August 13.
The 33-year-old is getting close to a potential return, but also has his eyes on a “big pre-season” as he aims to put a difficult 2021 behind him.
Rhinos visit St Helens on Friday for a Betfred Super League semi-final and Gale confirmed: “I am back running.
“I had the first running session on Monday - straight line, probably 60 per cent - and everything felt great, no bother.
"I ramped it up [yesterday] - 70-80 per cent straight line running - ad it all felt sweet.
I’ll have to see how it reacts, but hopefully everything is a-okay.”
Gale - who was stripped of Rhinos’ captaincy in July - has played only 11 times this year, after tearing a pectoral muscle in Rhinos’ first pre-season training session.
He got back for Super League round one, but suffered a fractured thumb in Leeds’ second game - against his former club Castleford Tigers - and has also been suspended twice.
Ironically, his knee injury occurred in a game he was originally banned for, but cleared to play in on appeal.
It was the only time this year Rhinos’ first-choice halves, Rob Lui and Gale, have been on the field together.
“It has been a tough old season,” Gale reflected. “I just felt like I was coming into a bit of form, but the mcl was just a freak accident.
“It’s not the time of year you want to be injured, but I saw the specialist last Wednesday and he said it’s rock-solid, so I can just build my rehab’ up.
“I’ll get as fit as I can do and if I am fit enough to be considered for selection, happy days.”
Whatever happens over the next two weeks, Gale is “100 per cent” confident of being fit for the start of pre-season. Rumours have surrounded his future since the captaincy was removed following a disagreement with coach Richard Agar, but Gale is contracted to Leeds for 2022 and insists he expects to be at his home city club next year.
“He [the specialist] said once you get the all-clear it usually takes two-three weeks to get back to full fitness,” he said.
“Alex Mellor is two weeks ahead of me and he was in the squad last week.
“He seems to have come through really well and I am feeling good.
“If I’m not ready this week and we win on Friday, I know it would be hard to change a semi-final winning squad, but hopefully I’ll be available for selection if needed.
“All I can do is get fit and that’s what I plan to do and have a big pre-season. Last year, it was a nightmare - I know how important pre-season is and I was sat for most of it with a shoulder strap on, which was massively frustrating.”
Gale’s own experiences typify a tough year for Rhinos, who have been ravaged by injuries throughout, but the England man reckons getting to within 80 minutes of the title decider is an “excellent” achievement.
Rhinos finished fifth in the table and won 8-0 in an elimination play-off at fourth-placed Wigan Warriors six days ago. Gale said: “I think we have got the confidence in the camp to go all the way.
“Our pack has been great and the back-five were outstanding against Wigan.
“It was a full team effort and at this time of year, that’s what it’s all based on - form and the playbook go out the window and it’s purely based on effort. I think we have that in abundance, so I have every faith we can go to St Helens and get the job done.”
Rhinos were crushed 40-6 at TW Stadium three weeks ago and have lost their last eight meetings with the defending champions.
“They are a good side and when they are hot, they’re really hot,” Gale warned. “It is going to be a tough night, but you expect that when you’re playing semi-finals footy. I think it’ll be a really good game.”
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