Maro Itoje may still be struggling to eat steak but he insists his broken jaw will not prevent him from firing Saracens to a European Champions Cup victory over Ospreys on Saturday.
Sarries know defeat at the Liberty Stadium will all-but end their hopes of progress from Pool Two and their bid to win a third consecutive European crown.
Itoje was not expected back so soon – the second row had to undergo surgery after fracturing his jaw playing for Saracens against Harlequins on December 3, when the prognosis was he would be out for around eight weeks.
However, Itoje was back within a month, making his first appearance in the Aviva Premiership against Wasps last weekend, ahead of an even bigger battle versus Ospreys.
“The jaw is absolutely fine, it feels good,” Itoje said.
“Throughout the game (against Wasps) I didn’t even think about it.”
Itoje has two plates inserted down the side of his jaw and another two in his chin, each fixed with pins.
He says he can still feel some pain when moving his jaw from side to side but otherwise it causes him no discomfort.
“I tried steak maybe two weeks after breaking it,” Itoje said.
“It was like chewing a mixture of toffee and chewing gum. It just wouldn’t go. Besides that my eating is fine.
“It still feels a bit funny eating on my left side, I think the nerve is still kicking in. But it’s fine. I can eat anything now.”
Itoje’s return could not have been more timely for Saracens, who trail Ospreys by two points in the group with two games left to play.
Win, and they will climb above their opponents, with Northampton to come last at home, but lose in Swansea, and Sarries will almost certainly crash out before the quarter-finals.
Sarries triumphed in the reverse fixture at Allianz Park in October but only just, by a scoreline of 36-34.
“The next two weeks are big for the club, it basically sets up our European destiny,” Itoje said.
“It is a tricky place to go and I have been there once before, in the LV Cup, and it was windy, wet, muddy, similar to what it will be on Saturday, and they really fought us hard. I can imagine it will be the same.
“I’ve got to know a few of their players so know how they will approach this game as well as from how they played at Allianz Park, what kind of team they are.
“It’s going to be a tough game but if we play well, we’ll be alright.”
Director of rugby Mark McCall has said Liam Williams is likely to be passed fit after overcoming a groin and hernia problem. Duncan Taylor, however, is out. He has another head injury.