Francois Louw grateful for English education at Bath

 

Francois Louw credits his move to Bath with his return to the South Africa team - but he also has England captain Chris Robshaw to thank.

When Heyneke Meyer took charge of the Springboks, his first instinct based on the Super Rugby season was to employ Marcell Coetzee as a powerful ball-carrying openside flanker.

But Robshaw's success in dominating the breakdown battle during that series prompted Meyer into a rethink and he turned to Louw, a ball-poaching flanker in the classic mould.

Louw played four of South Africa's Tests in the Rugby Championship and then produced a man-of-the-match performance in the Springboks' 21-10 victory over Scotland.

Such has been his impact with South Africa that Meyer admitted it would be "crazy" for the Springboks to face England at Twickenham on Saturday without him.

"In June I wanted an openside who could carry as well and that is what Marcell can do although, he isn't a specialist openside," Meyer said.

"The game has really changed since then, especially against New Zealand, Argentina and in the last two games. The breakdown has been a real battle.

"Flouw has been awesome. He has really changed my mind. He is the type of openside I like - superb on the ground, he is also a great ball carrier and he also has stopping power in defence.

"He is the whole package and he has been awesome for us.

"The one area they were better than us in June was on the ground.

"England were superb in technique, where the first guy would go for a leg tackle and then the second guy was in. Dan Cole was very good at that.

"They have a lot of good stealers there so I think it would be crazy not to go in with a specialist openside against England."

If Louw was minded to thank Robshaw, his opposite number on Saturday, it would certainly wait until after what is expected to a game of ferocious intensity.

But the 27-year-old is happy to credit Bath and the Aviva Premiership for his development.

"It was a difficult decision to make a couple of years ago, to come over, but I have I really enjoyed my time," Louw said.

"I always hoped I would come back into the Springbok side after the World Cup and I couldn't be more happy than to have a Springboks match at Twickenham, against some of the guys I have been playing against this year.

"It has been an amazing ride, I am having a fantastic time at Bath and I would say I have really learned a lot from playing rugby here in the Premiership.

"It is a different style of rugby, a fantastic style of rugby, there is a lot of credit to be given to what is being played over here.

"I can attribute a lot of my game to what I have learned over the last year playing here. Bath is an amazing club and I have really enjoyed my time here."

Meyer admitted he had been wrong to underestimate the physicality and the toughness of England rugby players, a perception he said had been corrected during his stint in charge of Leicester.

And having seen England finish second best to Australia at the breakdown and, for a long time in the scrum, Louw anticipates a fierce reaction.

"Having played a year of rugby over here I know what the guys will bring on the weekend and that is something we are going to have to front up to," Louw said.

"I know they have taken a bit of criticism but I do back the side.

"There will be a physical onslaught from England. They will definitely be up for it, especially at Twickenham.

"There is a lot of history and heritage here, which the guys will use as fuel for the game, which is very exciting.

"It is very exciting to face a challenge like that.

"They'll want to make a comeback and show what they can bring. It all builds up for an exciting game this weekend."

PA

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