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Handre Pollard’s race for World Cup fitness begins ahead of first Premiership start

The lesser spotted Handre Pollard will finally take flight for Leicester Tigers at Sale on Friday night, as the World Cup winning fly-half makes a long-awaited first start for the Premiership champions since signing as George Ford’s replacement in the summer.

The 28-year-old with 65 caps for South Africa injured his right knee in the Rugby Championship in late August, which was good and bad news for Leicester – their star recruit turned up earlier than they had expected, but he was in rehabilitation mode.

Pollard, who played for the Bulls before he spent three injury-affected seasons with Montpellier in France, eventually made his Leicester debut as a substitute at Saracens on 1 October but he lasted just 26 minutes before limping off with his right knee heavily strapped.

Pollard blamed Saracens’ artificial surface in part for his woe, saying in late November: “We’re taking our time with it [the injury] and making sure everything is good this time, so there are no setbacks.

“I wouldn’t say I rushed back; I was feeling great so I was ready to go, it’s just the mechanism was not sore but just not strong enough, and on the synthetic pitch it didn’t hold up.

“It’s very frustrating [but] it’s just about getting myself ready because I’ve got a long time here. Hopefully I’ll be ready for the new year and I’ll have a nice five or six months going into the [2023] World Cup.”

In a sad twist of coincidence, Ford has yet to play for Sale after rupturing an Achilles tendon in Leicester’s Premiership-winning final at the end of last season.

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Pollard was South Africa’s goal-kicking No.10 in the 2019 World Cup final win over England, as he joined a pantheon of pivots that includes Jonny Wilkinson, Dan Carter, Joel Stransky and Michael Lynagh.

Pollard is a smooth distributor, facilitator and kicker in the Wilkinson mould and he made his Test debut in 2014, when he was also named World Rugby’s Junior Player of the Year.

His unfussy style and troubled injury…


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