SCARLETS and Wales forward Aaron Shingler is close to making his long-awaited return after nearly a year out with a leg problem - which is not thought to be related to any specific rugby incident.

The 33-year-old, an ex-pupil at Pontarddulais Comprehensive School, has not played since coming off the bench in Wales’ last match before the coronavirus pandemic, against England in March 2020.

His return is a welcome boost for the 26-cap lock or flanker, who went to the 2019 World Cup after a year out with a knee injury, which he had suffered in the 2018 Pro14 final between Scarlets and Leinster.

His only appearance in the 2020 Six Nations tournament, however, was followed by him developing a leg inflammation, which at first was a mystery condition, during the first national lockdown.

Scarlets’ head coach Glenn Delaney said: “Aaron is back on the training field, so we are not too far away, his training has been pretty competitive, and he is teaching the youngsters a few lessons.

“We are building him up, and in the next couple of weeks we might be able to shift the needle, so I’d like to think he would be back on the field soon - what he is doing, static mauling, scrummaging etc is fine, we just need some capacity into the lungs.”

Delaney added: “It has been a real rollercoaster for him, seven-odd months deep on a challenging situation, but Shings has a strong mindset and has a great support network around him.

“Katie and the family have supported him really well, and now it is about him returning to being a rugby player, which we are really pleased to see.

“It was an inflammatory response which affected the joints, and the key thing was to get that under control -which they did and did very well - but it takes time, and now it has all subsided the key thing is the reconditioning.

“It was pretty scary for a while for Shings, every day it was changing, and it did take a while to get it under control - but we are really fortunate that the experts on hand to help him did a great job.”