Exeter and England star Henry Slade could be in line for a sensational return to action this weekend when the Chiefs play host to Newcastle Falcons in the Aviva Premiership on Saturday (3pm).
Slade has been sidelined since early December after he was stretchered off with a broken leg and ankle ligament damage during his side’s 41-21 victory at the Ricoh Arena.
However, the 22-year-old has worked tirelessly with the club’s medical and rehabilitation staff during that time and has returned to full training, much to the delight of head coach Rob Baxter.
"Henry is very close," said Baxter at his weekly media briefing. "He is out there now and he has done a full week’s training this week.
"I suppose with the amount of running he has done, he has done a lot more, but what you would say is that this is the first time he has started a week and he has been selectable as a full-on player.
"So he is there and we would now class him as fit for selection and whether that means we select him this week, or it is a little early still, we will decide and announce the team later in the week."
The return of Slade, coupled with the recent comebacks of Luke Cowan-Dickie and Dave Ewers, is a welcome boost to Baxter, who also said locks Damian Welch and Mitch Lees are also progressing nicely from their own long-term injuries.
"Damien Welch is two or three weeks away, but getting close and he is out running around now; while Mitch Lees will be a couple of weeks after that, obviously Dave Ewers is up and running now, so we are getting close.
"We are really pleased with our resources at the moment and obviously, in a couple of weeks’ time, the internationals will wrap up and we will get our international boys back fit as well, so by the end of the Six Nations, providing we don’t pick up any more injuries, we are going to be pretty close to full strength, which I don’t think we have ever been at this stage of the season before."