Aviva Premiership: Francois Louw loss leaves Bath exposed for showdown with Sale
Things are getting just a little tight at the business end of the Premiership, thanks to some unexpected results in the last couple of rounds, so fresh injury concerns over seriously good players are enough to drive head coaches to the brink of despair. Ask Mike Ford of Bath and Rob Baxter of Exeter, neither of whom can afford a slip-up in their pursuit of the big prizes – a semi-final place for the former, European qualification for the latter.
Ford must quickly work out a way of operating without his most influential forward, the Springbok flanker Francois Louw – not just for Friday night’s highly significant meeting with Sale at the Recreation Ground, but perhaps for the rest of the campaign. Louw turned an ankle during last weekend’s bonus-point victory at London Irish and while the swelling has prevented medical staff making an accurate assessment, there are fears that he will be incapacitated for a good while.
Bath are currently third in the table, but with Leicester gathering momentum by the week – rather than losing players to injury, the Tigers are fast getting them back – they are beginning to feel some heat.
Sale are fifth, seven points behind Bath, and having taken something tangible from every game since late October, they have legitimate play-off ambitions of their own. The news that they will not have to confront a back-rower like Louw will boost their confidence ahead of the long trip south.
Exeter must squeeze every last drop of value from their five-game run-in if they are to nudge themselves into the top six and secure a place in the new European Champions Cup tournament, which will be launched the moment nine different sets of lawyers agree on the small print regarding the winding down of the Heineken Cup. Unfortunately for the Devonians, they cannot count on the services of Jack Nowell, the England wing.
Nowell was smithereened by 20st front-rower Logovi’i Mulipola in last weekend’s heavy defeat at Leicester, whose coach Richard Cockerill reflected on the incident on Wednesday by saying: “There can’t be too many tight-head props in world rugby capable of doing what Mulipola did on Sunday.” Nowell would no doubt agree, albeit through gritted teeth: in attempting a try-saving tackle on the Samoan, he suffered a shoulder injury that may prevent him playing for some time.
“We haven’t found any muscle tears or whatever yet, but Jack needs another set of scans to ascertain what’s going on around his shoulder and neck,” Baxter reported. “By the end of next week, we hope to know exactly where we are with him.”
Paul Scholes: Manchester City paid the price for not dealing with Barcelona's Sergio Busquets
Arsenal vs Monaco: Theo Walcott 'involved in spat' with fans after Champions League defeat
It's time to stop the 'small club' jibes after Chelsea signed £200m Yokohama deal
Paul Scholes: Jose Mourinho's attempt to influence football's decision-makers is not working. In fact, it may have backfired
After record-breaking £5.136bn Premier League TV deal, why are Everton the only British club to win in Europe?
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 5 Fearne Cotton quits Radio 1 after ten years for 'family and new adventures'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East