Retiring Springbok and Bath flank Francois Louw has shared his concerns over the potential resumption of the 2019-20 English Premiership season.
The season was suspended back in April due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The last Premiership match was played on 8 March and there was a plan to resume the league in late April, before the UK went into lockdown.
The UK government has since relaxed lockdown rules to allow for individual training and Premiership chiefs are hoping to resume the season in July – especially after World Rugby suspended the Test window meant to take place in that month.
However, the Premiership clubs believe they need more time to make their facilities compliant with the current health guidance and to get their players fit and contact ready.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily Mail, Louw – who is set to retire when his contract expires on 30 June – says there are still a number of factors to consider about the league’s resumption.
‘It’s not just us retiring but guys moving clubs,’ Louw told the newspaper.
Louw was referring to players who will join new teams when the season resumes, such as Kyle Sinckler, who will join the Bristol Bears from Harlequins, and Jonny May, who will leave the Leicester Tigers for Gloucester. These players could end up playing for two teams in one season.
‘Are they representing a different club in the same season, or finishing with their current one?’ Louw asked. ‘Who’s paying their salary? So many questions. For me, I think that is going to be it.
‘There are talks about resuming the season come August, which would mean players coming back to training in June or July. I saw the statement that training won’t resume for at least two weeks. The crux of it will be the isolation period. If rugby does resume but you’re exposed to someone who has symptoms, or you get symptoms, what do you do? Do teams from a weekend game have to isolate for two weeks?
‘It’s bizarre, you can’t kick-start rugby like that.’
In Louw’s case, he said he has already made peace with the fact that he has played his last game of rugby.
‘I made the decision to finish and unfortunately that’s the outcome. I don’t think it has quite struck me as it will. At some stage I’ll be sitting with a glass of wine reminiscing about the good old days and wondering, “Did I have one more season in me?”
‘A time will come when it will really jerk on my heart. I’ve spent nine special seasons at Bath. I leave with a full heart, great memories, great friends for life. That’s what sticks with you.’
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images