Gareth Anscombe has revealed how he feared his Rugby World Cup hopes might have been destroyed by injury for a second successive tournament.
The Wales fly-half missed Japan 2019 after suffering an horrific knee injury during a World Cup warm-up game against England that sidelined him for two years.
Anscombe fought back to put himself on the international stage once more – then injury struck again during Wales’ World Cup training camp in Turkey earlier this summer.
An attempted tackle on George North left Anscombe with a thumb problem that resulted in scans and him having to wear a plaster cast for a month, ruling him out of Wales’ three pre-World Cup Tests.
“I suppose I had a night there in Turkey where I thought I was done again, and that was devastating,” said Anscombe, who starts Saturday’s Pool C clash against Portugal at Stade de Nice.
“You have some dark thoughts then, but thankfully I had some luck on my side for once.
“It didn’t look great at the start, and the initial prognosis was it was probably going to need surgery, but thankfully the scans came back better than first thought.
“I had to be in a cast for a month, which was difficult, but at least I could still run.
“I missed the warm-up games, but to have the backing of the coaching staff was great. They spoke to me and said I was still in their plans, which was nice to hear.
“It has been about getting myself right and ready for when an opportunity presented itself, and here we are this weekend.”
Anscombe is one of eight survivors from Wales’ 2015 World Cup squad to be involved eight years later, and he offers considerable experience through 35 caps.
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏴 (@WelshRugbyUnion) September 13, 2023
And the New Zealand-born number 10 is relishing a chance to play his part as Wales aim to reach the World Cup knockout phase for a fourth successive tournament.
He features in a team showing 13 changes from the side that toppled Fiji, and it is Anscombe’s first World Cup appearance since he started at full-back against quarter-final conquerors South Africa eight years ago.
“We know there are parts of our performance that we need to improve if we want to progress deep into this tournament,” he added. “But it was a great start (against Fiji).
“There has been an element of confidence brewing. The more time we spend together, we always improve.
“You look back to the Six Nations, a new coaching group and a fairly volatile situation in Welsh rugby.
“We’ve just been able to get away from a bit of the noise, which I think has been important for us as a group. Getting away in Switzerland and Turkey, focusing on ourselves.
“You always need an element of luck in World Cups, with injuries and decisions. We just hope to slowly go about our work and ride the wave.
“We had fantastic support on the weekend. I think more people will jump on the plane over and get behind us. I think you see when Welsh fans get behind us, who knows what can happen.”