James Haskell: There were times when I thought I was never going to recover
England flanker James Haskell admits he doubted whether he would ever return from the foot injury which kept him out of action for six months.
After his long-awaited comeback a fortnight ago was curtailed because of concussion, he played for almost an hour in Wasps' win at Zebre on Sunday.
"It's been the hardest six months of my professional career," he told BBC 5 live's Rugby Union Weekly podcast.
"There was a time when I thought I was never going to make it back."
Haskell had been nursing a long-standing problem with his toe before it finally gave way completely late on in the second Test in Australia in June 2016.
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"There were a lot of sessions where I would take three steps forward and two steps back, but we got there in the end," added Haskell.
"I tried to do the basics well [against Zebre], I've obviously got a bit of discomfort in the foot, but you are always going to have that."
Wasps' victory in Parma secured a place in the last eight of the Champions Cup, and set up a meeting with Leinster in Dublin.
"They have got better from where they were last season, they have keep improving, and they've got such a legacy in European rugby," Haskell added.
"Irish rugby is in a really good place from the national side downwards.
"It's going to be a challenging place to go and play, but it's why we are so desperate to be in the top tier of Europe, to go to places like Leinster and have a big European tear-up."
However, an officiating blunder in the narrow defeat by Connacht - who were incorrectly allowed to kick a penalty to touch after the final whistle and then scored the winning try from the subsequent line-out - means Dai Young's men missed out on a home draw.
"These things happen - there is nothing you can do about it," Haskell said.
"It is what it is, and we now have to go to a tough place to get a win, but if you want to be the best in Europe you have to go away and get these results."
Haskell and his Wasps team-mates will join up with the England squad in Portugal on Monday as they prepare for the upcoming Six Nations.
The 31-year-old was a key part of England's Grand Slam and unbeaten tour of Australia in 2016, but having missed the autumn internationals, he faces a battle to wrestle back the open-side flanker shirt from Tom Wood, who was singled out for praise this week by England boss Eddie Jones.
"There is so much competition there, it's very exciting. To get an opportunity to be involved with Eddie Jones' coaching staff is a very special place to be," Haskell added.
"If I can get through the training week and head towards bigger things then that would be amazing."