A “mid-career oil change” has Queensland captain James Slipper primed to fire up the Reds’ engine room against Super Rugby rivals NSW Waratahs on Sunday.
Slipper may have had the 2019 World Cup in mind when he underwent a shoulder reconstruction and a knee clean out in November.
But the Reds prop hopes months of rehabilitation will have him ready for a more immediate goal – a comeback against nemesis NSW at Suncorp Stadium this weekend.
Slipper said he would do all he could to be cleared to make his Reds return against the Waratahs, who have won their last five derbies.
Reds openside flanker Liam Gill (back) is also keeping his fingers crossed he will play his first game of the year.
“I’m confident in myself to get through,” Slipper said of his chances of playing on Sunday.
“It’s a good week to come back playing the Waratahs.”
Slipper said he had endured shoulder problems for two years but the post-2015 World Cup surgery, along with the knee operation, had set him up for the long haul.
“It was my mid-career oil change,” the 74-Test prop laughed.
“I’m back doing stuff in the gym I just wasn’t able to do for a long while and I’ve got that chance to push through to the 2019 World Cup.”
Rehab was tough for Slipper.
But looking on as the Reds floundered on the field, resulting in coach Richard Graham’s axing after just two games, was even tougher.
“It’s probably been the toughest thing I have been through in my career,” Slipper said.
“To have the injury was hard enough but to watch what was going on, not playing good rugby, was mentally hard.”
The Reds are still win-less after four rounds but showed heart in their last round 25-25 draw with the Blues.
“It was a tough time. I have been through a few coach changes – it is something you never like seeing,” Slipper said of Graham’s sacking.
“But when you are working towards a common goal it brings people together.
“I think we have responded well.”