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Owen Franks is contracted to the Hurricanes through 2023.
It turns out Owen Franks’ maiden season with the Hurricanes might not be a lost cause.
A couple of months after he went down in a heap after snapping his Achilles tendon during a sprint session, the 34-year-old is on track to return to Super Rugby in April.
Franks, the fifth-most capped Crusader (153), last year signed a two-year deal with the Hurricanes after spending a couple of Covid-19 and injury hindered seasons with Northampton.
It was initially believed Franks wouldn’t play during the inaugural season of Super Rugby Pacific when he suffered the blow, but the tighthead prop is bullish about his chances of getting back on the paddock before the season is cooked.
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“I’m trying to stay grounded and not get too ahead of myself, but I intend to be playing Super Rugby this year for sure,” Franks said.
“I don’t think I’ve been this pumped about potentially playing again in a long time. Especially with what I’ve been through with injuries the last year and a half. If I can get back on the field and play to my potential, it will probably be the biggest achievement of my career. I fricking can’t wait.”
Franks, who last week launched a new scrum machine with Crusaders assistant coach Jason Ryan, is whizzing through his rehab.
In fact, having dealt with nagging pain in his Achilles – he had season-ending surgery on his left one in 2017 – for a chunk of his career, they’ve never felt better.
“To be honest, since it’s been ruptured, it’s the least amount of pain I’ve had in there.”
Franks’ surgeon had his right-foot out of a cast a fortnight after operating, before putting him in a moon-boot and ensuring he was quickly walking again.
“I think in the past it would have been in a cast for six weeks…things have progressed real quickly,” Franks said.
Louie Kishimoto, 15, is the playmaker of the New Zealand Asian Barbarians team taking part in the World School Sevens in Auckland on Saturday.
He hasn’t played since last February, when he hobbled off a couple of minutes into the Saints’ game against the Wasps.
Franks underwent surgery on his left-foot shortly afterwards, bringing an end to his time with Northampton. He played 22 games for the Saints.
“It was awesome. I definitely got what I asked for rugby wise. The Premiership is a tough comp, big guys, physical, the club rugby aspect of it is awesome, the history behind the clubs, local derby games and that.
“I think the perception over here is the English are a bit arrogant and that, but the guys I played with were awesome, real humble guys and all have great sense of humours.”
The sight of Franks donning the yellow and black of the Hurricanes will take some getting used to for Kiwi rugby fans, particularly those of the Crusaders.
After all, he spent 11 seasons with the red and blacks, helping them win three straight titles before heading overseas.
Franks will certainly miss next month’s game against the Crusaders in Christchurch, and it might be a stretch for him to be fit in time to play his old side in Wellington on April 8.
However, there is the possibility of the sides clashing in the playoffs. Otherwise, there’s always next year.
“It will be weird. But you know what it’s like, you’re loyal to your current contract, and I’m really grateful to the Hurricanes, not only for signing me but the support they’ve shown me with getting through his injury. Hopefully I can get back on the field and repay the faith.”
Ryan, who worked closely with Franks at the Crusaders between 2017-19, agreed it would be odd to see Franks lining up against the side he represented for more than a decade, one which couldn’t find room on their roster when he cut his contract with the Saints short by a year and returned home.
“Owen and I have a lot of mutual respect. We knew he was coming back, and he wanted to come back, but we’ve got some young boys that we wanted to bring through, which he knew and understood.”