Owen Franks, the 108-test veteran who missed out on the All Blacks‘ 31-man World Cup squad, has hit back at his critics.
The 31-year-old tighthead was perhaps the biggest casualty of the squad announcement on Wednesday, with Steve Hansen and the All Blacks selectors opting for younger, more mobile props over Franks’ experience.
While admitting that fellow tightheads Angus Ta’avao and Nepo Laulala deserve their places in the team, Franks isn’t having the claims that he has lost his pace or that his career is on the decline.
“The frustrating thing is that there’s talk out there that I’m slowing down and age has caught up with me,” Franks told Stuff.
“I really don’t buy it. I think I’m much better shape, possibly even better than the last World Cup. I’m not just comparing myself to Angus and Nepo – those guys thoroughly deserve their spots and to be fair they have got a bit of pace on me.”
In fact, Franks believes he’s in a lot better shape than he was a few years back.
“If I compare myself to me three years ago, there’s no doubt I’m moving better and I am in a lot better shape,” he said.
“I have worked pretty hard at that. I have always been pretty honest in my self-assessment. I am harder on myself than what anyone else is, or what feedback they can give me – I have probably already given it to myself.”
Franks says he feels a lot more mobile since having surgery on an Achilles tendon in 2017, which forced him out of the Rugby Championship and Northern Tour while managing the pain with painkillers.
“Before that, it was up to years on end of dealing with it. Probably up to 2017 I was at my worst in terms of mobility, running wise. And I feel I have been re-building since then and going from strength to strength,” Franks told Stuff.
“That’s why when I hear that I have been slowing down in the last couple of years, it’s just plain wrong.
“I know where I was at a few years ago. I had to have painkillers just to be able to run, I was running like s***.
“Now it is totally different. I still have a long career ahead of me.”
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