Dan Cole admitted it was good to get the competitive juices flowing again as he made his long-awaited injury return in Leicester Tigers’ comeback win against Sale Sharks in the LV= Cup.
Cole has been out for the last nine months after neck surgery but stepped off the bench for his first club appearance since January to give his side a much-needed boost.
The Tigers, who snuck past London Irish 17-16 in their opening LV=Cup game last weekend, had been trailing 13-3 at the break after being overpowered by fellow Aviva Premiership Rugby side Sale.
But a second-half blitz which saw Miles Benjamin cross twice, as well tries for Matt Smith and young prospect Harry Thacker, ensured the Tigers turned the tables to triumph 29-13.
Cole, who has four times more first-team starting appearances than the total of the starting forward pack chosen on Sunday, played the last 32 minutes of the match.
And while surrounded by players from the development and academy ranks, admitted he had been impressed with what he saw.
"I made my debut in this competition, as a lot of players have. It gives you a taste of what first-team rugby is like,” he said.
"It was a real collective effort. The effort from a young team coming back was great, it was good to be part of that.
"Credit to the boys for backing up the win last week. They've put the work in off the field and now they've put a marker down for the rest of the year.
“I'm tired, but that's to be expected. I'm pleased to get out and run about again.
"The conditioning staff have been great, they've done a lot of hard work and you do as much as you can to get ready to be on the field but nothing is exactly the same until you get back on to the pitch.
"I'm pleased I'm back on the field, it's what you are here to do."
Cole’s Tigers side have endured a difficult start to this year’s Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign with three wins from six.
And the England prop insisted the Welford Road crowd had been pivotal in ensuring it was not another defeat this weekend.
"The crowd was fantastic, especially in the second half. The boys responded to that," he added.
"I think the crowd was getting bit frustrated in the first half but they were noisy in the second half and got right behind the team and the team fed off that.
"That support is what gets you going. The first half didn't go as we wanted but the spirit was great, it was about pulling together and making the hard yards and making your tackles. You put in the effort, the crowd responds and the team responds to the crowd."
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