Bath ace warns ri­vals: I’m bet­ter than ever af­ter my sum­mer break

The Rugby Paper - - News - ■ By NEALE HAR­VEY

FRAN­COIS Louw reck­ons his first proper rest in six years will help fire Bath’s tro­phy bid and en­sure he re­turns to the in­ter­na­tional arena with South Africa.

Louw, 32, joined Bath in 2011 and has been on rugby’s tread­mill ever since, rep­re­sent­ing the Spring­boks dur­ing June win­dows, World Cups, the Rugby Cham­pi­onship and Novem­ber Tests.

How­ever, an en­forced break to un­dergo shoul­der surgery this sum­mer gave Louw some vi­tal respite and hav­ing sub­se­quently been over­looked for the Rugby Cham­pi­onship, the pow­er­ful open­side has taken full ad­van­tage by restor­ing his bat­tered body. Louw told The Rugby

Pa­per: “I’ve been heav­ily torn be­tween Test and club com­mit­ments over the last five or six years, so to start the sea­son with Bath and be fully in­volved in what has been a great start to the sea­son has been a fan­tas­tic change for me.

“The off-sea­son was quite a long road af­ter un­der­go­ing shoul­der surgery and try­ing to get back as quickly as I could, but the medics at Bath have done a great job and hav­ing come off the back of a full pre-sea­son, the body feels fresh and very well rested.

“Usu­ally, I’d fin­ish a sea­son and go straight off to play in June Tests, then head straight into Rugby Cham­pi­onship games be­fore com­ing back to Bath to play in the Premier­ship and Cham­pi­ons Cup, so it was rugby all year round which is hard to man­age.

“But this year has been to­tally dif­fer­ent and while my phi­los­o­phy will al­ways be to play Test match rugby – and I wish I was play­ing for South Africa against New Zealand – to be start­ing for Bath is great be­cause we’re look­ing to take our sea­son all the way.”

Louw added: “I cer­tainly haven’t re­tired from Test rugby or any­thing like that; South Africa just want to see me play­ing again and the bet­ter rugby you play for your club, the bet­ter your chances.

“They can’t ig­nore you if you’re play­ing high end rugby, which the Premier­ship and Cham­pi­ons Cup is, so we’ll see what hap­pens again this Novem­ber.”

Louw’s out­stand­ing early sea­son form sug­gests he has taken the new ruck laws in his stride and back row looks to be a huge po­si­tion of strength for Bath, who still have Tom El­lis, Zach Mercer and newly-capped Sam Un­der­hill to come into the side.

Louw said: “Sam has got a huge amount to of­fer. From the con­fi­dence that he has and a lead­er­ship per­spec­tive, you can see what Ed­die Jones sees in him and it will be good to see him play his first game for Bath and get reg­u­larly into the side.

“We’ve got good depth across our back row with guys like my­self, Toby Fale­tau, Matt Gar­vey and Paul Grant, and from my per­spec­tive mak­ing the laws around the ruck black and white, rather than a mat­ter of per­cep­tion, has been quite help­ful.

“You hope all laws put in place make the game bet­ter to watch and play and while there has been a bit of adap­tion, we seem to be achiev­ing that.”

Mean­while, Louw vows Bath will not al­low the loss of head coach Tabai Mat­son to de­rail their bid to lift sil­ver­ware for the first time in ten years.

Mat­son re­turns to New Zealand for fam­ily rea­sons this week, with Louw adding: “It’s very sad that Tabai’s in this sit­u­a­tion but rugby is just a game and fam­ily comes first.

“It’s a huge loss for us be­cause he was very in­flu­en­tial, but all the guys bought into his phi­los­o­phy and ethos over how to play the game so we’ll try to build on some of the prin­ci­ples he in­stalled and move our sea­son for­ward pos­i­tively.”

PIC­TURES: Getty Images

Top Bok: Fran­cois Louw makes a break for South Africa against Wales

Lot to of­fer: Sam Un­der­hill

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