Luke Fitzgerald returns from injury with new outlook on life

LUKE Fitzgerald was reduced to tears when he first discovered the severity of his knee injury but now appreciates the way it has altered his outlook on rugby.

The elusive Ireland winger will make his first Test appearance in a year when he lines-up against South Africa at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Twelve months ago he damaged the lateral collateral ligament of his left knee during the 20-20 draw with Australia.

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It was a sickening blow to the Leinster back. But having accepted his misfortune and begun the process of recovery, the 23-year-old has been forced to re-evaluate life outside of sport.

"When I was told how significant the injury was there were tears shed," he said. "I thought it might be the end. My family gathered around me and I had to move back home for a few months. It's certainly changed the way I look at the game. You realise how fickle sport can be."

Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), G D'Arcy (Leinster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster); J Sexton (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), T Buckley (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), M O'Driscoll (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster). Subs: S Cronin (Connacht), T Court (Ulster), D Ryan (Munster), D Leamy (Munster), P Stringer (Munster), R O'Gara (Munster), K Earls (Munster).

South Africa: G Aplon; B Basson, Z Kirchner, J de Villiers/P Lambie, B Habana; M Steyn, R Pienaar; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis, B Botha, V Matfield, D Stegmann, J Smith, P Spies. Subs: C Ralepelle, CJ van der Linde, F van der Merwe, W Alberts/K Daniel, F Hougaard, A Jacobs, P Lambie/L Mvovo.