Gloucester Rugby: Contracts not the focus for Jimmy Cowan
REVITALISED Jimmy Cowan is desperate to hit top form this season – to secure a long-term Kingsholm future.
The 31-year-old scrum-half admits he cannot afford to worry about anything other than battling back to his best after six months recovering from knee surgery.
All Black Cowan is among the 24 Gloucester stars out of contract at the end of the coming campaign.
The former Otago Highlander wants to make himself an invaluable Kingsholm asset this term.
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And he knows the best way to achieve his ambition is to forget all about the contract scenario.
Cowan ran in a try in Friday night's 22-13 Kingsholm win over Plymouth Albion – his second in as many weeks after registering in the 28-17 Munster defeat.
Fit a month ahead of schedule, Cowan is now intent on proving to Gloucester boss Nigel Davies that he is ready for Premiership action.
Gloucester open their league campaign by hosting Sale Sharks at Kingsholm on Saturday (3pm kick-off), and Cowan is itching to be involved.
He explained: "Contracts are the last thing on my mind at this point, coming back from injury.
"I've got to focus on producing the rugby I know I'm capable of, nothing else.
"I've been here nearly a year, but missed six months of that through injury.
"And in that situation you just want to get back to playing as often as possible as quickly as possible.
"When it comes to contracts though, all you can do is worry about playing well.
"And if I'm playing well then it will take care of itself.
"I've got to get out there and perform, and if I do that and continue to be an asset, then I believe I can warrant another contract.
"First and foremost I just want to get out and play footie though.
"My challenge now is to show to Nigel that I'm fit enough, fresh enough and ready to start a Premiership game.
"I want to be in the starting 15, but I need rugby too, and I need as much as I can get to be back to my best.
"I'm not sure whether they'll deem me fit enough to be a contender to start against Sale, but I've just got to keep pushing as hard as I can.
"And then hopefully that will be enough to warrant a spot in the team for Sale.
"I honestly do feel ready in myself, last week was a big mental step, ticking the box against Munster.
"You're always thinking about contact on your first game back after a long injury, hoping you'll handle the contact with no problems.
"But from last week to this week I had none of that, I just went out and played and that was great.
"I'm confident I'm ready to go now, but we'll see what happens.
"Each week you know you've got to go out there and fight for the jersey, and that's how it should be.
"That's what Gloucester should be all about.
"You've got to earn the badge, simple as that.
"Everyone's had a chance to impress, so now Nigel will sit down and pick on form, and that's all you can ask for as a player."
Cowan joined Gloucester in October last year, rejecting a rest to embark on back-to-back seasons when swapping hemispheres.
The one-time deep-freeze meat worker now concedes he would have benefited from a short break, before throwing himself straight into Cherry and Whites action.
The anterior cruciate ligament tear he suffered at Northampton in February left him no option but to rest in any case.
And now the 51-cap World Cup-winner is ready to reap the benefits of that enforced rest.
He continued: "It's funny because I always said to Nigel I didn't need a break when I arrived last year.
"I felt fine when I arrived.
"But looking back now, I think that enforced break through the injury has been the best thing for me.
"I've had what I call a six-month pre-season.
"I've worked hard: when I arrived I was 98 or 99 kilos, but now I'm down to 91 now, so I've dropped eight or nine, and I'm probably the best I've felt for a long time.
"So I needed that window to get into that sort of shape.
"And certainly I feel refreshed and ready to play rugby again.
"In hindsight Nigel was probably right and I did need a break, and I'm a great believer in things happen for a reason.
"Maybe someone was looking down on me in a good way, I've had my break and now I'm ready to kick on into the season."