Bath ace warns rivals: I’m better than ever after my summer break
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.”
Top Bok: Francois Louw makes a break for South Africa against Wales
Lot to offer: Sam Underhill