Rice happy to be back at Cornish All Blacks after two years away
As prop Martin Rice left the field following the Cornish All Blacks' victory over Southend last weekend, there were signs of it being his first competitive game in two and a half years.
The 30-year-old forward could easily have been playing in the Premiership, were it not for a succession of serious injuries and his on-going commitment to his family's farm.
The former Plymouth Albion man even had a six-week loan spell at Wasps in the 2009-10 season, and there was speculation of a more permanent move to the top flight the following summer.
Instead, Rice played the full 80 minutes in his first rugby game since April 2010 at Polson Bridge on Saturday, helping his side to a 38-6 National League Two victory against Southend.
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Despite the serious ligament damage to both his knees and disc problems in his neck from his past, the only visible ill-effect from his weekend's work was a small cut to his lower lip.
"I must look better than I feel, in that case," said Rice. "I didn't expect to play 80 minutes but I enjoyed it, it was good.
"I've been training with the club for a few weeks but I didn't expect to play this quickly. There were a couple of injuries in the squad and that brought me forward a little quicker than we were planning.
"I've had two years off from rugby but I feel pretty good again now."
His performance impressed head coach Spike Rainford, who had been coy about suggesting a possible return date for Rice over recent weeks. He said: "He has been training now for six or seven weeks and we have tried to keep it as low-key as possible because of him coming back into the game after such a long time.
"We just wanted to make sure he was happy with everything before we threw him back in. The intention was to give him a good 60 minutes, but, as it turned out, he played the 80 minutes with no issues whatsoever. He is a great addition to the squad."
Rice, who farms at St Neot near Liskeard, is unsure how much of a part he will play in the rest of the All Blacks' season, but he was certainly pleased with the team's performance in his first game for the club since leaving for Albion in 2005.
He said: "It was a brilliant win. It took us a while to break them down. In the second half, I think our fitness pulled us through and we managed to get on top of them.
"I'm not sure what will happen with me now. I'm here just to help out, really, and I still have the farm to run, so I'm not sure if I can get to the away games. I'm just taking each week as it comes, but I will help out wherever I can."