England star Richard Hill still hopes to play again this season as he continues his recovery from knee surgery.
The 71 times-capped World Cup winner has been sidelined since October after being hurt during a Premiership clash between Saracens and London Irish.
The Sarries flanker subsequently underwent an operation to re-construct the anterior cruciate ligament - abruptly halting his England prospects before last autumn's three Tests against Canada, South Africa and Australia.
It also dealt England head coach Andy Robinson a major back-row blow, following the international retirements of Hill's former Test match colleagues Neil Back and Lawrence Dallaglio.
But Hill has just returned home from America - where he underwent an intensive three-week rehabilitation programme, working with world-renowned knee specialist Bill Knowles.
If Hill is able to make a Saracens return this term then it will inevitably enhance his prospects of making the Lions' summer tour to New Zealand.
"My aim is for an April return - but that will depend on the status of the knee, my physical progress and how it fits in with the team," he said.
"I feel very confident with the progress I've made and I am very much looking forward to getting out on the training field once again and returning to playing."
Hill spent time with Knowles at the Killington Medical Centre in Vermont. The trip was aimed at increasing strength and balance in his left leg, which allowed him to start running.
"It has been a very rewarding three weeks in terms of recovery," added Hill.
"The time has been spent increasing the strength and balance in the leg, and I have also been able to run with some purpose and intensity.''
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