RUGBY: Louw returns for Bath's Amlin final

Wiltshire Times: Francois Louw Francois Louw

FRANCOIS Louw returns to Bath's side for tomorrow's Amlin Challenge Cup final against Northampton at Cardiff Arms Park (pm).

The flanker, who has not played since tearing ankle ligaments in a Premiership game at London Irish in March, joins Carl Fearns and players' player of the year Leroy Houston in the back row, with Guy Mercer on the bench.

Louw said: “I’m very excited to be in the side for this weekend. It’s the final game of the season and these are the kind of games that any player lives for. It’s going to be a hell of a hard game, a relentless one, but this is where we want to be and this is the pressure we want to feel.

“To play in a final with so much emotion involved, so much resting on the game, and so much pressure, that’s what brings all the excitement. At the end of the day, we play to win. We want victories, we want silverware and we want to be champions. That’s what we strive for.”

Stuart Hooper leads the team from the second row, alongside Dave Attwood.

Academy hooker Tom Dunn is selected for the number two shirt, between the international experience of Paul James and David Wilson, with Argentina hooker Eusebio Guinazu, who suffered concussion against Harlequins two weeks ago, only deemed fit enough for the bench.

Micky Young and George Ford continue their half-back partnership, with Anthony Watson and Semesa Rokoduguni are named out wide on the wings.

Academy Player of the Year Ollie Devoto links up with Jonathan Joseph in the midfield, as Nick Abendanon prepares to make his last appearance in a Bath shirt at full-back.

Dylan Hartley's name was missing once again as Northampton announced their squad for tomorrow night's final.

Hartley has been out for six weeks with a shoulder injury and it is increasingly unlikely he will recover in time to play a role in England's tour to New Zealand.

Next Saturday's Aviva Premiership final against Saracens will be his last opportunity to play for Saints this season and even if available it will offer little time to prove he is ready to face the All Blacks in the second and third Tests.

Ford was named at fly-half by Bath in what is shaping up to be his final match of the campaign after it emerged on Wednesday that he requires shoulder surgery.

Ford had been earmarked to start the first Test against New Zealand but England must now look elsewhere with the 21-year-old set to have the operation next week.

Bath narrowly missed out on securing a place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs after losing to Harlequins two weeks ago and Ford is determined that they conclude a fine season with some meaningful reward.

"We had a few extras days to prepare as we weren't in the Premiership semis, so that's allowed to look at things in greater detail," Ford said.

"We've trained well this week and we'll give it our best shot in Cardiff.

"It's massively important that we finish the season with some silverware.

"We were in the top four of the Premiership for the majority of the season, but didn't quite make it in the end.

"We also lost in the LV= semi-final, so we have to go to Cardiff and get the result to make the season a success.

"The boys have all got their eyes on that target and now we've got to go and do it."

Northampton prop Alex Corbisiero makes his first start since sustaining a knee problem last autumn amid five changes by Saints.

Bath are holding an event on the Rec starting from 6pm tomorrow night, with the Swift Half bar set up on the pitch.

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Anthony Watson, 10 George Ford, 9 Micky Young, 1 Paul James, 2 Tom Dunn, 3 David Wilson, 4 Stuart Hooper (captain), 5 Dave Attwood, 6 Carl Fearns, 7 Francois Louw, 8 Leroy Houston.

Replacements: 16 Eusebio Guinazu, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Gavin Henson, 23 Horacio Agulla.

NEWS & REACTION FROM TOMORROW'S FINAL AT WILTSHIRETIMES.CO.UK/SPORT AND IN NEXT WEEK'S WILTSHIRE TIMES

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