Matt Banahan return softens Francois Louw blow for Bath
Matt Banahan’s return from injury has given Bath a big boost as they look to make it back-to-back Premiership wins for the first time since early September.
That is also when the giant centre last played, having been sidelined since damaging his right knee on the way to a home win over Wasps in round two of the season.
But the 25-year-old has been back in training for several weeks and is likely to make his comeback in the trip to London Welsh on Sunday.
“Matt is back and we’d like to think he will be in contention for selection,” said Bath head coach Gary Gold.
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“He’s been out for a long time, but we haven’t wanted to rush him as he is an important player for us.
“Tom Heathcote is in the same position after giving us 80 minutes on Monday in the A League.”
However, Banahan’s availability does not improve Gold’s selection headache. Prop Davey Wilson has joined up with the England squad, while the back row is Bath’s main cause for concern.
Francois Louw and Carl Fearns both went off injured in the weekend win over Exeter Chiefs, while Simon Taylor has not featured since the defeat at Gloucester at the start of October.
“We haven’t really been able to think about selections yet because we’re in a bit of a bad position with a lot of guys picking up knocks,” said Gold, who does not expect to name new signing Nick Koster in his pack despite the injuries.
“Everyone seems to have taken a bang as it was a really tough game against Exeter.
“If we didn’t have to tackle so many times, we wouldn’t be injured.
“The thing that works in our favour is that we’ve got an extra day’s recovery, so we will give everyone as much time as we can to get them in a position to play.
“Francois took a bad bang to his head and it looks like he has compacted the vertebrae in his neck.
“He was in a lot of pain and we’ll have to evaluate how he gets on. We hope it won’t impinge on him playing and we’ll give him until about 2.55pm next Sunday because then we’ll lose him for the four Tests that the Springboks are going to play.
“Nick only arrived last week and is still settling. It’s quite a big change going from South Africa to playing in the Northern Hemisphere.
“The Premiership is a different challenge and I wouldn’t think we’d throw him in as early as this weekend because he needs time to adapt.”
Although the Exeter success provided Bath with a third win on the bounce, Gold will not be complacent against Welsh, despite recording a victory over the Premiership newcomers in pre-season.
“I don’t think we can read a lot into that game because Sunday is going to be an entirely different proposition,” said Gold. “They’ve got some good players, are well coached, have a great attitude and I’ve been impressed by what they’ve done this season.
“We know it’s going to be another challenge, especially with how well they perform at home. They’ve moved quickly to make their home at Oxford and have got some good results there. We have to take the attitude and performance we showed to get the win against Exeter into this game.”