Michael Fatialofa welcomed back at Warriors

Former Hurricanes lock Michael Fatialofa was welcomed back to his English rugby club today for the first time in five-and-a-half months.

The 27-year-old suffered serious spinal injuries playing for Worcester against Saracens in the Premiership on 4 January.

Having spent five months in hospital - the first of them in the Intensive Care Unit of St Mary's Hospital in London - Fatialofa made remarkable progress during four months at the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital in Aylesbury.

He was discharged 11 days ago and returned to Sixways today to continue his rehabilitation under the supervision of Warriors' medical staff.

Fatialofa was applauded into the Warriors High Performance Centre by players and staff and greeted by 'Welcome Back Fats' banners.

He spent almost two hours at Sixways where he met Head of Medical Ryan Kehoe and also had a stint on an exercise bike in the indoor training barn.

For the players, who returned to training on Monday, welcoming back their stricken team-mate was both emotional and inspiring.

"It was unbelievable seeing him again. With the lockdown it's been a while since I have been able to visit him so it was great to see him face-to-face," said scrum-half Jono Kitto.

"It's just incredible to see how far he has come and how well he is doing.

"We have all been thinking about him and hoping and praying that he is recovering well. Obviously he is. He will be stoked to be back home and the next phase of his recovery.

"I am so happy for him that he is progressing well and he is on the up."

As a fellow New Zealander, Kitto and his wife Lauren are close friends of Fatialofa and his wife Tatiana and they have provided valuable support during the lockdown period.