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Bath flanker Francois Louw eyes last hurrah in MLR

Francois Louw

World Cup-winning back rower Francois Louw has not ruled out extending his career at Bath, although a move to Major League Rugby in America looks increasingly likely.

Louw, 34, joined Bath from the Stormers in 2011 and is a firm crowd favourite at the Rec. However, he admits his affinity for the club must be weighed against his post-rugby career plans while revealing discussions with MLR sides have been ongoing for some time.

Louw told TRP: “This is my final contract year at Bath and I’m not 100 per cent sure where I’m heading or what my future plans are. Once rugby is done, the plan is to go into the financial sector and I’m trying to put things in place for a smooth transition.

“I’ve done trips to America over the last few years to have a look at MLR, specifically New York, Colorado, San Diego and Seattle. I’ve had chats there and it’s an exciting tournament that’s been started up and there’s no doubt it will become a decent sized one.

“If anything happens in America it usually happens on a big scale and they’ve made some big signings in Mathieu Bastareaud (New York), Ma’a Nonu (San Diego) and Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira (Washington). There’s a buzz going on there and it’s exciting because rugby is a game that needs to constantly grow, especially in North America.

“There’s a possibility I could stay at Bath, if it’s best for me and the club. Bath’s somewhere I’m really passionate about and this is my ninth season, so I like being here. They’ve had a lot of trust and belief in me and there’s a strong mutual relationship which has been fantastic. I’ve been privileged and excited to be part of.”

Should he opt to remain at Bath, much of Louw’s decision will be driven by a desire to win silverware, which the club has failed to do since 2008 but is something he believes could come to fruition under the current coaching regime headed by Stuart Hooper.

“It’s exciting times here, for sure,” says Louw. “We’ve had our fair share of change-ups in coaching regimes but I played alongside Stuart for a number of seasons and I’ve seen him grow and progress into positions of responsibility and now into the top job itself.

“He’s got a strong support team, especially with Neal Hatley coming in with his experience and having been at Bath prior to his stint with England.

“Having been involved with England all the way to a World Cup final, he brings a vast amount to the club.

“We’ve had challenging times but we’re in a decent place in the Premiership and we’ve got a strong squad of guys who are willing to put in the time and effort to be successful. We’ll go full throttle for a top four place and it would be great to get some silverware.”

Francois Louw
World Cup hero: Francois Louw with his winners’ medal in Japan. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Louw reveals he might never have been a part of the South African side that surged to World Cup glory in Japan last autumn had he listened to voices in his head telling him to quit Test rugby when the Springboks were at a low ebb two years ago.

He explained: “There are a lot of challenges when you’re playing in northern hemisphere club rugby and international rugby in the southern hemisphere. Being away from your family is tough, especially that last stint when we were away for 19 weeks in all.

“I definitely contemplated whether it was right to carry on playing international rugby, especially during 2016 and 2017 when South Africa had a big dip in form. They were two of our poorest seasons in decades and you start to question what you’re doing.

“It would have been easy to quit at that stage but I’m really glad I stuck in there now and I have to give a lot of credit to my wife for holding camp and giving me that freedom and confidence to go out and enjoy myself. The World Cup was always going to be my final international run, so to go all the way to the final and win it was fantastic.”

In the wake of South Africa’s success, talk of the Springboks joining the Six Nations has gained ground.

Louw is no fan of that proposal, however, adding: “I personally can’t see it happening. The Six Nations itself is a fantastic tournament with a lot of history and heritage. For them to expand and include a southern hemisphere team, I’m not sure why they would do that or how it would work given the many logistical problems it would present.

“I think the Rugby Championship is also a fantastic tournament with a lot of history there as well and with Argentina being included over the last few years, that’s been great. I’m not sure why you would want to change either of those competitions.”

NEALE HARVEY

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