So much has been said and so many tributes have been payed about Nick Abendanon recently, and they are all completely deserved. After nine years as a Bath player he has decided to up sticks and move across the channel to France and play for Clermont Auvergne.......but Does he have any regrets?
The Amlin Challenge Cup final will be Abendanon's final flurry in the Blue, Black and White of Bath and he wants to sign off in style!
Sat in a garden and basked in sunshine at Farliegh I managed to catch up with him and have a quick chat about the past, present and his future in France.
After nine years playing for Bath your career here is ending and you're moving on to Clermont , how hard a decision was that to make?
It was very hard, probably one of the hardest decisions I'm going to have to make in my rugby career. There's not too many hard decisions as players we have to make, the clubs been good to me, it's been my home for the last ten years, all of my family are based in the area so I'm very comfortable here and have a great life and I've played some of my best rugby here. It was tough, very tough, especially considering the team is doing really well and will continue to do well easily for the next four or five years so it's disappointing that I won't be a involved in that. But I'm going to one of the biggest clubs in Europe and it's a chance of something new, I've always wanted to play in France and there isn't many better clubs to go to than Clermont.
When you made the decision and signed for Clermont you weren't getting as much game time as Anthony Watson did that influence your decision to move?
I'd be lying if I said it didn't, it definitely had an influence on it. Anthony was playing some fantastic rugby at full back and they said they were looking to develop him. It was a decision I had to make there and then, carry on and fight for my place, which I know I would of always done or do I let the young players coming through have their time and leave on a high. I've had a great time at bath but felt they might of seen my time coming to an end so thought I'd try something new.
You have always been on the cusp of the England team, injuries and selections have stopped you from gaining more caps. You have been in some of your best form this season but due to the RFU's stance on only players playing in England can play for England does that leave you frustrated?
Yes, yes it does! But at the same time I can't do anything about that, I hope they do change that especially in the World Cup year. If I'm playing fantastically well for Clermont week in week out and there could be a few injuries, I hope then I could still get a call. I've stuck around in England for the last three or four seasons possibly waiting for someone to get injured, waiting for an opportunity to come but it just hasn't. When I made my decision England wasn't in the forefront of my mind it was more on the personal side of things. If I had to make the decision now having been playing so well towards the end of the year and the possibility of getting back in the England mix it would of been a lot harder choice to make.
You've featured in some big games over your time at Bath and quite a few derby matches, does the latest game against Gloucester rate as one of the hardest?
Without doubt! That's the hardest derby I've ever played in. There was everything in that game, aside from some decent rugby (laughs), But that's how derby games pan out, there's so much testosterone floating around and so much a question it's the team who fronts up the most who comes out on top. Probaly did help Gloucester only havin 13 men on the pitch with five minutes to go, so we could drive them over for the penalty try.
It's definitely going to stick in my mind as possibly one of the best derby games I played it while I was here.
You celebrated your 200th appearance against Sale in the big scrum fiasco game, a disappointing game all round as a spectacle and the loss, how frustrating was it for the players on the pitch?
I don't know the first thing about scrums so I can't comment on the forwards frustrations. I don't know if any of the were penalties or not, but from what I've seen in the past standing out at the back, after three or so scrums the ref is generally under the sticks awarding a penalty try. We had nine scrums on the line and the ref didn't budge, we don't know the reasoning behind it but we did feel harshly done by it. We still put ourselves in the position to win it and unfortunately Fordy's drop goal just slid wide. Pretty disappointing for that to be my 200th game but still really proud to have got to 200.
Friday will be your last game for Bath how are you going to deal with the emotions of the occasion?
You can't really let emotion get in the way of your game, otherwise when you start thinking with your emotions you start to do silly things, you've got to keep a clean head, a clear mind and play the same sort of rugby you've been playing the whole season, if that's the same way we've been playing all season then we can turn them over in the final.
You've had some great moments on the pitch for Bath, but what would you say have been your best and worst moments?
The worst has probably got to be a home game against Leicester, where both the Tuilagi's gave me a little bit of rough and tumble for the majority of the game, I felt like I'd been through about five car crashes after that game.
The best has to be the eleven game streak we went unbeaten with Claasens and James as the half backs. We hadn't won any games up until Christmas and then we just went on an amazing winning streak. Or the challenge cup final in 2008, just the big bit of silverware I've won.
You've scored the occasional special try, which would you say out of all of them in your opinion is you best?
It's actually came from this season to be honest, the try against Chiefs down at Sandy Park, I'm not quite sure how I did that one. I just managed to get it down and that will definitely stick in my mind.
The 16th man is always so important to the team, with the ticket allocation so small for the two clubs are worried about the lack of atmosphere?
The difficult thing for the ERC is they don't know who is going to be in the final and they put the tickets on sale at the start of the year. It's difficult to predict, if they'd known it was going to be a Bath v Northampton final they would of probably put it in somewhere like Twickenham or the Millennium stadium, they would of been able to half fill or even fill both of them with the travelling supporters that both teams get. It's a little disappointing that the fans that have been there the whole year supporting us weren't able to get any tickets, but we know they'll be there watching us on the television and be there in spirit, we'll just have to do the best for them and win!
A big thanks to Nick for taking the time to chat to me, hopefully he'll get the send off he deserves and Bath to win the Amlin cup. It would seem only fitting for a stalwart of the club to sign offin such style.
Although Nick I do agree with Flats the beard does need to go!!
Good luck in France you'll be missed at Bath.