Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Can this Tiger bite back?

The news that Agulla has signed from Leicester Tigers brings the question -can this Tiger live up to the hope and expectations rather than the disappointment of the other ex-Tigers?

It is safe to say that the trio of Tigers players who were drafted in over the last couple of years failed to live up to the hype and expectations and led to a sense of disappointment. The signing of Moody, Vesty and Hipkiss came with so much hope that they could help strengthen the squad returning Bath back to the dominant force then once were, unfortunately as we are all too aware this failed to live up to its billing I do not doubt the calibre of the trio of Tigers ex-pats, they do not get the accolades and respect for nothing. The feeling amongst The Bath Rugby Fans was that they were no longer required by Tigers as opposed to 'looking for a new Challenge'.

For Bath to snare the captain of England and to see him pull on the Blue, Black and White jersey was for some a monumental signing. Lewis Moody a huge stalwart in The England team, a World cup winner and now captaining his country, is a man who is passionate about the game and shows it with the way he throws his self into the game playing with 100% commitment. Sadly it seemed Tigers were being quite savvy by cutting Moody loose, due to his passion and commitment he’d become prone to injury as Bath soon discovered. In the little under two years he spent in the Bath colours he only managed to muster up 15 appearances and managed to score a try in one of those fixtures. By the time he arrived at the Rec his body had taken so much punishment that it was only a matter of time before it could do no more. He will always be a true hero and inspiration on and off the field to so many, old or young. A sad occasion when he had to hang up his boots and a travesty we never saw the 'true' Lewis Moody perform at the Rec!

Following Moody down from Welford road was Sam Vesty, both starting at the beginning of the 2010/11 season. There was much surprise and trepidation to Vesty's move as he has what you consider to have Tiger blood running through his veins. A fourth generation Tiger following his father's, grandfather's and great grandfather's footsteps, working his way up through the ranks from academy to the first 15. Vesty also holds a handful of English caps to his name, but with the introduction of Toby Flood he soon began to slip down the pecking order. So for first team rugby becoming harder to obtain an option to join Moody in the move seemed a wise choice. While at the Rec so far it’s fair to say he has had quite an indifferent time. Saving Bath's blushes on several occasions with boot and tries, but has not had a regular run and struggled with form. Fighting for a place and kicking duties with the likes of of Barkley, Heathcote and Donald (when fit) at times he's failed to make his mark.

The next Tiger player to hit the hallowed turf of Bath was Dan Hipkiss following his fellow band member Sam Vesty. Hipkiss was a true stalwart at Leicester being the player who had scored the winning try for Tigers against Sarries in the 2010 Aviva premiership final Potentially a strong signing with 150 points in 130 appearances for Tigers, representing England at all levels from U18 to gaining 15 first team caps. So could Bath be getting a dynamic and slick centre? Answer-sadly not fulfilled that calling. With his first season completed but only 13 showings for Bath and just the one try, the potential class signing has fallen short and delivered very little. With new players entering the frame and him not shining the way we know he can will he get much of a shout next season?

Now enter Horacio Agulla! The 27 year old Argentine has spent the last two season impressing with his pace, skill and strength, using it to administer some bullocking runs resulting on him gaining the 'fans player of the season'. He's represented Argentina in the past two world cups, gaining two third place medals. Leicester has decided due to work permit and him not being available until October to release Agulla to Bath. Leicester opted due to his commitments to Argentina for the four nations and missing pre-season it would be a big undertaking to keep him at Welford road. Gary Gold feels confident that playing the likes of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa will make him stronger and more prepared to enter Bath's season campaign. With 34 caps and 20 points for the Puma's and competing against the world’s best in the four nations we can only hope he can come to Bath and demonstrate his skills and convert it into points as he did at Tigers.

So have Bath finally made a top signing from Leicester ? Let's certainly hope so!

Monday, 18 June 2012

A new Dawn is rising

The excitement is building as the Aviva premiership 2012/13 season is creeping ever closer.

For the Blue, Black and White Faithful this brings a new sense of hope. After a particularly shakey campaign last season the hopes and aspirations of Bath rugby fans brings a new belief to their hearts.

With the pre-season training getting into swing the knowledge that very soon we get to see the 'New Beginning' for Bath. Will the change be so different for the better or will the players not conform? So many questions to the fresh start, but for all the queries it's still enough to get the taste buds pumping.

The McGeechan regime slowly faltered and reduced Bath from potential league toppers to a mediocre mid table team. So enter the new band of coaching squad, almost an ultra band of coaching staff. Bruce Craig and Nick Blofeld have crafted what they believe to be a top coaching department to bring Bath back from obscurity and into the pinnacle. Gary Gold, Toby Booth, Mike Ford and Neal Hatley, are joined by last year’s first-team coach Brad Davis who will now take the helm, and now the pre-season training has started will try to implement a new standard to be displayed on the Rec. With a handful of players on international duties we wait to find out how the squad evolves, but I for one cannot wait.

In just a little under two months until the 'New look' Bath is unleashed for our viewing pleasure for the pre-season warm up matches. A particularly welsh feeling about the fixtures they should be a good and varied levels and standards to challenge the team.
The first challenge to take on the championship winners London Welsh will be no mean feat. Welsh who rightly won the playoffs and entitlement to premiership rugby are being denied their place in the top flight will want to prove a point and show the RFU they are able to mix it with the big guns.
The other two fixtures will come in the form of Osprays and Cardiff Blues. Two teams who form a strong stance in Welsh rugby. Any Anglo/Welsh fixture will always be a hard fought bout, as both nations always wish to show they're the dominant force.
Three big challenges to brace Bath Rugby for the impending Season and hopefully allow them to hit the campaign running.

So as the sun sets on Geech's day are we set for a Gold-en dawn of a new era?

Monday, 11 June 2012

Overlooked or over hyped?

With the news of Nick Abendanon getting a call up for England, well deserved I think as a Bath fan, but are there other players who deserve a shout at international level.

Do fans believe in players for their ability or because of the club they support?

Ultimately I'm a rugby fan as well as being a Bath Rugby fan, I believe if a player is talented and of a high enough calibre then they deserve an international call up. I personally want to see my nation do the best they possibly can and know potentially can do. Regardless of which club they play for, sadly at times this is not the case for all supporters who wish to see the inclusion of only their own team players. At times followers of club teams struggle to look past their own club for top players. An example of this comes in the form of a handful of Tiger's fans that through the entirety of the England v South Africa first test continually had jibes at Owen Farrell, picking up on any error he made and calling for him to be replaced by Flood. Toby Flood who has not played for 6-8weeks, in fairness he is a quality player but not totally match fit I'd prefer to see Farrell on the pitch to start than Flood for the better of England. The one thing a supporter of any sport should do, is support their nation and wish for nothing but the best from the players as part a team, or is that an over ambitious thought?

All fans believe their club has an abundance of top class players and we Bath fans are no different. Is this true or are we looking through Blue, Black and White tinted glasses?Are Bath rugby players being overlooked because of last season's club performance or in honesty are they just not as good as we believe?

Abendanon has been called up due to Brown's unfortunate injury and I'm really happy to see him there joining the rest of the England squad. Other players I believe deserve inclusion in national rugby are Banahan, Biggs and Caldwell.

Matt Banahan we all know is a big powerful and fast player but in all of his England performances he has only been used in that dimension. There are a lot more strings to his bow but he hasn't been allowed to show this on an international level. Banahan has an ability to run good angles and release some good offloads, not to mention his support running which has improved hugely from his England inclusion.

Tom Biggs has had a superb season and demonstrated his many varying skills as a winger. Potentially one of the best finishers with lightning pace. However due to his size the doubters feel he is too small but how many times have we seen him track back and put in some monumental tackles?A player who so rarely suffers injuries, even when Delon Armitage attempted to decapitate him. Biggs has shown on so many occasions this season how his support play has led to him running in tries or helping with a well timed offload to release another player. The biggest confusion to his omission to the English squad is that Stuart Lancaster was the man who brought him to the forefront and saw the talent he displayed, so Lancaster is very aware of Biggs yet still no call up.

Possibly one of Bath's best signings this season surely goes to Ryan Caldwell. Caldwell has displayed power and passion in the Bath shirt since his arrival. Game after game Caldwell has shown why he is potentially one of the best second row players in the Premiership. The problem Caldwell is struggling with is (luckily for Bath) he plays abroad and not in his native Ireland. England are starting to build from scratch by including young players to help build for 2015 Rugby World Cup, and looking at the Irish squad perhaps it's time the followed suit and Caldwell would be a very good place to start.

Yes we all rate our players highly its part and parcel of supporting any team but in fairness these players deserve their chance to shine!!