Bath Rugby duo Stephen Donald and Francois Louw face battle to be fit for Northampton Saints trip
Stephen Donald and Francois Louw will be given as long as possible to be fit for this weekend’s Aviva Premiership trip to Franklin’s Gardens.
Bath Rugby travel to the home of Northampton Saints on Saturday (3pm) but could be without the two key internationals, who both limped off during the win over London Irish.
Fly-half Donald suffered cartilage damage to his ribs, while Louw has been struck down with a hip problem and face a race against time to be fit this weekend.
“Stephen is struggling and Flo is touch and go,” said head coach Gary Gold.
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“We are hoping they are going to be ready for the weekend but both are struggling at the moment.
“Stephen is probably looking less likely to play than Flo but we will give them both until the Friday and wait and see.
“A popped rib is normally a couple of weeks out.”
Donald’s potential absence has been alleviated after Tom Heathcote, who has been training with Scotland all week, was not included in his country’s match-day squad for the Six Nations match against Ireland.
Sam Vesty is also available, with Gold saying: “He is an old head at ten and can control the game well, he’s been to Franklin’s Gardens many times before.”
Props Davey Wilson and Paul James are away with the England and Wales Six Nations squads respectively.
Injured captain Stuart Hooper is also definitely out but Jack Cuthbert is in line to return. Argentina prop Eusebio Guinazu is also fit for a potential debut.
After securing bonus-point wins in their last two Premiership fixtures, Gold knows his men face a crunch period in the fight for a top-six finish.
Bath currently sit just below Saints in seventh, while next week’s visitors, Gloucester, are fifth.
“From our point of view it’s really important for us to keep this momentum going,” said Gold.
“It’s not rocket science to work out that it will be a defining two weeks in how the season pans out.
“The pressure is on big time from our point of view and I think Saints will be feeling the pressure now as well.
“There is an expectation that because Saints are at home they should win, which will raise the temperature for them.
“I think the winner of these games will be the guys who can handle that pressure and still perform and do
what they intended to do the best.”
Prop Charlie Beech could benefit from James’ international involvement and knows Bath cannot afford to lose ground in the table.
“The table’s very tight in the middle at the minute and with another couple of wins we can really make some ground up and look to finish strongly this year,” said Beech.
“It’s massively open this year which is what’s great about it as a competition. Everyone can turn up and get a good result on the day.
“Any win away from home is massively vital if you want to be shooting towards the top end of the table.
“Kingsholm is known as a bit of a fortress and we did a job up there, so we’ll be looking to get a result at Franklin’s Gardens too.”