MALVERN RFC welcome back centre Mark Humphreys after a career-threatening cruciate injury, suffered against Luctonians in December 2000, appeared to have ended his rugby playing days.

It has taken two operations and a long period of rehabilitation to bring him back to full fitness and he makes a low-key return tomorrow (Saturday) for a Malvern A team against the second string of National League outfit Old Patesians.

Humphreys reported last week that his fitness levels were good enough to start playing again. The leg had stood up well to rigorous training sessions and he felt it was the right time to test it under match conditions.

Director of rugby David Robins said "We are delighted to see Mark back in action. He was an integral part of our rise through the leagues, playing in 65 first XV games on the way, and he formed a devastating combination at centre with Gareth Richards. He has proved his fitness on the training field - as he told me last week, he now has to overcome the psychological hurdle that every player faces when returning from serious injury. The rest of the squad are delighted to see Mark back, even though it will make the competition for places even more fierce."

Malvern returned to winning Midlands Two West ways last Saturday with a 20-10 victory at Stafford.

A delighted Robins said following the match: "We found our old character, grit and determination out there today. There was a steeliness of spirit amongst the lads that especially showed when we were under so much pressure in the first half.

"The comeback of loyal club servant Steve Cooper shored up our scrum and gave us the edge. Jamie Anderson just gets better every match and Richard Fleming is growing in stature in leaps and bounds. Mark Eastwood, probably only 70 per cent fit, did plenty of damage, but it was a great team performance and two well won away points."