Aviva Premiership: Francois Louw loss leaves Bath exposed for showdown with Sale

 

Rugby Union Correspondent

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.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower