Injured Wallabies' flanker Jack Dempsey is finally seeing some light at the end of an injury tunnel, rating the mental roadblocks harder than the physical ones.
The NSW Waratahs star broke into the Wallabies starting side late last year and was man of the match in the Bledisloe Cup win over New Zealand in Brisbane, in the most recent of his six Test appearances.
The 23-year-old forward's progress was stalled a couple of weeks later when he tore two tendons off the bone during the Wallabies' victory over the Barbarians in October and was ruled out of the spring tour.
Dempsey subsequently underwent surgery and has targeted a return to Super Rugby action In either late April or early May.
"It's definitely been a massive challenge for me, obviously you've got the physical roadblocks that you hit when I got surgery," Dempsey said.
"You have to wait three months before you can do any lower body stuff.
"I think the mental roadblocks have been twice as hard, getting up every morning and feeling the surgery and feeling your limitations.
"But now that I'm running and doing a lot more lower body stuff and the load is picking up and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it's really quite positive for me."
The three-match June home Test series against Six Nations pacesetters Ireland is a goal for Dempsey who, as his name suggests, has family connections to that country.
"On my dad's side, it goes back a few generations though," Dempsey said.
"'I've never got to play them (Ireland) apart from the under 20s in a junior World Cup.
"But to play them for hopefully the first time (as a Wallaby) on home soil against a world-class team that they are, would be awesome.
"They are a top tier top-three team in the world, so it will be real interesting to see how they go with a three-game series away from home on the other side of the world.
"I've watched them over the years and they have always been a very disciplined and strong team, especially in the forward pack."
Australian Associated Press