Bath Rugby back-row trio ready to return
Bath Rugby have been given a boost ahead of the visit of Wasps on Saturday (2.15pm) with the return to fitness of several back-row players eager to fill the void left by Francois Louw.
Gary Gold's side looked stretched for loose forwards following Louw's call up to the South Africa squad for their next two Rugby Championship matches in Australia on Saturday and New Zealand next weekend.
The flanker started last Saturday's tense 24-23 success over Worcester Warriors before joining the Springbok set-up, while academy graduate Will Skuse was Bath's back-row replacement at Sixways.
Simon Taylor, Josh Ovens and Guy Mercer all marked their return to full health the following day, however, with starting berths during Bath United's 30-29 loss at Exeter Braves.
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And although Louw's absence will be felt, first-team coach Toby Booth stressed the need for the club to learn to cope with the loss of key players.
"We are disappointed to lose Francois but it gives someone else an opportunity and we will see if they can step up to the mark on Saturday," said Booth, who made a summer switch to The Rec following four years as head coach at London Irish.
"We are lucky because the timing has been very good to us and Simon Taylor and Josh Ovens are both back.
"They played in the United game against Exeter and put in decent performances, so have put their hands up for selection this weekend. That goes alongside the boys who are already there and a couple of youngsters too, with the likes of Will Skuse.
"We are probably looking a bit stronger in the front-row department because Ant Perenise is back as well but we can play Stuart Hooper in the back-row if needs be and Guy Mercer has been doing well too.
"We've lost Francois and he is a very influential player for us but then again he could be out for six months injured, so you cannot be reliant on one player.
"Every coach will tell you that if you get your best players on the pitch your chances of winning are greater; however, the challenge going forward is to recruit a squad that can absorb those things and be resilient to international call-ups.
"Ideally we'd love all of our players to play international rugby because it reflects well on the group and what we are doing."
Bath now face a resurgent Wasps side who put last season's troubles behind them with an impressive display during their own season opener.
Only a late try denied them victory over Harlequins, with the champions edging to a 42-40 victory at Twickenham.
And Booth credited director of rugby Dai Young for the Londoners' revival ahead of Bath's first home Aviva Premiership clash of the campaign.
"It's going to be interesting to see how they bounce back but Dai needs to take a lot of credit for what they have done," said Booth.
"He arrived at a place with loads of things he couldn't control, but has turned the side around to be in a position to play rugby like they did at the weekend and compete against the champions.
"He's got them around the corner and on the way back up so they will be a tough proposition for us."