I HARDLY remember anything of the incident that knocked me out and left me concussed in the Heineken Cup quarter-final win over Ulster three weeks ago.
I can recall the moment just before jumping, but not the leap, catching the ball, the impact from Jared Payne, the bumpy landing, being carried off in a neck brace, nor much of the treatment. My memory of the rest of the evening is patchy, but I know I had trouble sleeping as my mind wouldn’t shut down.
The nature of concussion is that you can suffer after-effects such as nausea and tiredness, and I had headaches for 10 days after the fall. It was a worry at the start but my head is a lot better now and luckily my neck is fine as my shoulder took the brunt of the impact.
Once the headaches passed I slowly resumed training – first on the bike, the next day jogging, then skills and finally contact training. I’ve passed all the cognitive tests and it felt good to make my comeback for Saracens in last week’s win against Newcastle, especially with a huge match in prospect tomorrow.
Clermont Auvergne, our Heineken Cup opponents this weekend at Twickenham, are a great side and we’re excited to play against some of the best players in the world – that’s what we all want.
But we know they will have every reason to fear us too. We believe that we can cause them problems and open up any team, if we stamp our authority on the occasion.
We’re on a five-game winning run but have been very consistent all year, and one of our key principles is that we always look to make ourselves better. This year we’ve really improved our attacking play, while maintaining our strengths such as togetherness and doing the basics well.
The club has never reached a European final before but we’re confident we can take that step and make history this year. Saracens have improved a lot in the last couple of years and we don’t feel that there’s a psychological barrier to overcome.
Also in our favour is that Chris Ashton is in superb form in the competition. He is one try away from equalling the Heineken Cup record of 10 in one season, and if anyone can achieve that feat it’s him.
Chris brings real energy and buzz, and an enthusiasm to attack and play rugby. He has been in tremendous form all year, despite being left out of the England side for the Six Nations. Whenever someone is passed off by their national team they return to their club hungry to do well, and hopefully he has proved a few people wrong.
Alex Goode plays for Saracens and England. Saracens play Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup semi-finals tomorrow at Twickenham.
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