Sport Rugby

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Special talent Johnston has emerged from 'dark place'

Injury-hit Munster out-half Bill Johnston make his comeback on Friday in the U-20s’
stunning win over France. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Injury-hit Munster out-half Bill Johnston make his comeback on Friday in the U-20s’ stunning win over France. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

For many young players, two separate, serious shoulder injuries in six months may have forced them to question their future in the professional game. To then fully recover and damage an ankle would have pushed most to breaking point.

Not Bill Johnston, though. The supremely talented Munster out-half has never lost focus of the bigger picture and his latest comeback on Friday in the U-20s' stunning win over France only heightened the level of expectation on his young shoulders.

Since Johnston started blazing a trail with Rockwell College he has been destined for the top, but repeated setbacks have hampered his progress.

After missing last season's Six Nations with a dislocated shoulder, Johnston recovered in time for the Junior World Cup, but dislocated his other one during the famous win over New Zealand last June.

Luckless

Such has been the excitement surrounding Johnston, it's easy to forget that he only turned 20 two weeks ago. The Tipperary native impressed Rassie Erasmus in pre-season, but his luckless run continued when he went over on his ankle in December.

"I'm not going to lie, I was in a pretty dark place," Johnston admitted.

"I missed the pre-season and wanted to get back and make a statement with the U-20s and my club. In my first B&I match I hurt my ankle and that was a real kick in the teeth. It took a lot of hard work and a lot of graft, but I'm happy that I put it in because I think it stands to me now.

"If you take six or seven weeks off and you come back and you're rusty, you haven't really done yourself justice. I put the hard work in. I say 'if you stay ready, you don't have to get ready'."

Now back to full fitness again, Johnston is focused on the future as Ireland chase a Grand Slam before June's Junior World Cup in Georgia.

"They were kinda innocuous injuries," he maintained.

"If you look at it, pretty much every rugby player dislocates their shoulder, everyone picks up that high ankle sprain. They're just things that you have to accept and move on and try and look after your body as best you can.

"You hear about lads who get injured frequently, but it's all about Prehab and mobility. It might not be about pushing the heaviest weights the whole time. It might be reading your body and saying 'I'm a bit sore, I need to look after myself this week'."

Mature beyond his years, Johnston's mantras are ones that far more experienced players could learn from.

Irish Independent

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