For many sports stars, the COVID-19 lockdown couldn’t have come at a worst time.
But for Leicester Tigers development squad member George Martin, the break served as an opportunity to rehab a niggling hamstring injury – and now he’s ready to take his opportunity.
“This is an environment I can flourish in.”
The 19-year-old made his senior Tigers debut earlier this season, away to Worcester in the Premiership Rugby Cup, and had been selected in England’s Under-20s squad for the ‘junior’ Six Nations.
But injury cruelly denied the Nottingham-born forward selection for the first game against France, and then again at home to Ireland in Round 3.
“I got quite unlucky,” he admits. “I pulled my hamstring just before the first game and then I was rehabbing back to come in for the Ireland game, and a couple of days before that game I pulled it again.
“But being in that environment was still really good for me. I learned more about the lineout, my calling, and it was just good to be with a group of lads my own age.”
After postponement of the final round of Six Nations – and then an almost six-month pause in the domestic season –you might expect a young player to get frustrated. But not Martin.
“It was obviously quite hard at first, but the way I looked at it I just wanted to work hard on everything that I could do to get me back on the pitch as soon as possible,” he continues.
“Getting back playing was the big motivator for me, and COVID gave me a big lump of time in lockdown to do all of the extra rehabbing and stuff. It meant I had to do everything off my own back, so it was really good for me.”
“I want to kick on again.”
Now back in Tigers camp and fighting fit under new head coach Steve Borthwick, the versatile forward is desperate for another taste of first-team rugby.
He adds: “I’m definitely targeting getting involved with the first team, and when my opportunity comes I’m going to try my absolute best.
“Everyone is pushing each other on all the time in training, which is good for me and all of the other young players currently here. I’m really looking forward to it.
“I definitely feel like this is an environment I can flourish in and I feel like I’ve improved a lot as a player in this mini pre-season.
“Steve has been brilliant with me, especially on my lineout stuff. I’ve been working closely with Mike Ford as well around my defence, so I’m just really looking forward to hopefully getting into some games.
“I definitely think that I’ve kicked on and I want to kick on again.”