Owen Franks admits that an enforced hiatus from rugby has made him appreciate the sport as much as ever before.
A double Rugby World Cup winner, All Blacks centurion and three-time Super Rugby Champion, Franks has achieved almost everything possible in club and international rugby, and could be forgiven for enjoying some time away from playing.
But for the 32-year-old tighthead prop, absence only makes the heart grow fonder, and Franks is now savouring the possibility of getting back to training with Northampton Saints in the coming weeks.
With brother Ben, 36, also due to retire at the end of this campaign, Owen would dearly love to get back on the pitch to complete the season.
“I’m pretty desperate (to play),” he said. “At the start it’s like ‘yeah, cool, there’s some time off and we’ll be back into it soon’ and now I’m just really keen to get back into work.
“I’m keen to play rugby again and it makes you realise how lucky you are to be a professional sportsman playing rugby. I can’t wait to get back into it.”Owen Franks
Saints supporters may have already seen how Owen Franks has been spending some of his time in self-isolation on social media, with the prop filming himself pushing his car to create some homemade scrum practice.
He said: “I’ve been training and hanging out with the family, doing the home-schooling stuff with the kids.
“I’ve just been trying to keep some scrummaging strength there and I’ve had to make do with the station wagon!
“It’s easier training in numbers and the rugby skills side of things is pretty tough when you’re by yourself, but I’ve always – even from when I was younger – trained alone, or with just my brother.
“I’m sort of used to training in isolation in some respects already. Every preseason we go off and do our own training, so it’s been fine.”
With 11 appearances under his belt since his summer arrival from his native New Zealand, Franks is only a short way into his Saints career despite being one of the veterans of the squad.
The prop starred for the Crusaders before making the switch to Northampton, winning three Super Rugby Championships along the way, and now Franks reckons the culture his compatriot Chris Boyd is conjuring up at Franklin’s Gardens is one of the best he has sampled during his storied career.
“I wasn’t a part of the culture beforehand but it’s clear to me he’s started something pretty special here,” Franks said.
“[Boyd] has let the players lead things a bit more and have some more ownership, and I know the feeling around the group is that everyone likes playing for him.
“It’s definitely a positive culture, there’s no negativity. I’ve been part of good cultures in my career, and this is definitely one of them.”