Sale Sharks hooker Tommy Taylor insists a six-month injury lay-off has helped take his game to the next level in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
The homegrown 23-year-old was forced onto the sidelines with a serious knee injury back in June, but he is eager to make up for lost time in the second half of the season and help Sale replicate last year’s top-six finish.
His return to the fray in January’s European Rugby Champions Cup clash with Clermont probably felt like a brand new signing for the Sharks, with Taylor making his first Aviva Premiership Rugby start this season at London Welsh on Saturday.
And after chipping in with two tries against the Exiles, Taylor is adamant he has returned from the lay-off a wiser, more rounded player.
“It’s obviously awful having six months out of the game, but I’ve looked at it quite positively. I’ve been in the gym and I’ve come on physically quite well,” he said.
“I’ve put on some weight and I feel quite fit, but I think the main thing for me was learning the game.
“Before I was learning while playing, which is good but when you take a step back and watch, do a bit of analysis, you learn a lot more by watching players like Dan Braid and Nathan Hines and see how they adapt to different games.
“So I’ve been able to look at my game and see the areas I needed to address.
“I feel quite strong in defence and around the ruck, that’s what I enjoy, but I don‘t carry as much as some of the top hookers and if I want to get to that level, then I need to carry a bit more.
“So those six months out have probably allowed me to look and make a few extra goals for myself every game.”
Taylor’s double helped move Sale above Leicester Tigers and into the top-six, and he admits improving his carrying game is something he has been working on during his layoff.
But the ambitious youngster knows he has a lot of work to do if he is to have an impact on international rugby in the next few years.
He added: “It was good to get on the scoresheet as I’ve not scored in about two years, but I get more excited if I get a turnover to be honest.
“I’m normally at the bottom of a ruck rather than having the ball in my hand – I was having a bit of a rest on the wing when I got the ball!
“But I do need to bring my carrying game on. The hookers that are with England are not much bigger than me weight-wise, but I don’t stand out at the moment against the likes of Dylan Hartley.
“My carrying game is probably not as strong as some of theirs even if you feel sometimes as though you’re maybe stronger in different areas.
“You can do a lot of the hard work but if you don’t stand out it’s quite difficult to get to that level.”
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