Every now and again you get an invitation that you would be foolish to refuse.
After the Warriors game I wrote a tweet about what I believed to be aimless kicking by Bath. In the tweet I mentioned Gary Gold. What came next I truly didn't expect......a Direct message from the man himself! After a small discussion via direct messaging I had a better view of the tactics deployed in the match. From this original discussion I was invited to join him for a coffee at Farleigh House and have a relaxed chat. I later received a confirming invite from a certain Mr Flatman to meet the two of them. My eldest son was hugely jealous, as an aspiring prop he has huge admiration for Flats and I was off to meet him and Gary Gold. Well who would turn that offer down?
As I pulled up in front of Farleigh house it suddenly dawned on me how lucky and honoured for such an invitation, as walking to reception just scanning across the field and seeing the Squad in training mode in truly stunning surroundings. I waited in reception to be greeted by Flats who then progressed to walk me through to make ME a coffee! A guy I'd watched and supported for his nine years at the Rec making a coffee for me, instantly I realised just how relaxed and friendly the whole set up is at Farleigh.
For a period of time I sat in a room almost chewing the fat with Flats while Gary Gold finished up on the training field. From talking to Flats his passion for the club has continued off the field after his retirement and you can tell his friendship with the squad is still just as strong. Whilst in the conversation I was informed of quite nasty messages delivered to him and others in regarding the way the Barkley situation was handled. From talking to him he made total sense stating 'until all of the facts were in place why do any form of press releases, how would that help'. Olly Barkley made his final decision and shortly after they announced that it was going to happen, Bath don't wish to speculate or add to rumours and believe the fans are entitled to the entire story.
Upon Gary Gold's arrival Flats left us to it. The one thing I took from talking to GG was his intensity and passion as a coach, he is here to get Bath back in the map and playing clever and strategic rugby. His knowledge of statistics, facts and the working of the game is phenomenal. From watching relentless hours of rugby researching endless statistics is how the Bath game plan has come to light. It's not a plan he has conjured up its a plan that the 'facts' have developed. The issue that he raised was that the plan isn't the issue it's the execution of the plan.
From all of the statistics he told me the most frightening one, through all matches across the board there is only an average of three and a half phases played before a penalty is conceded. So much research has been put into this and with so much potential for an infringement playing to much ball in you're own territory could spell danger, playing too much rugby and going nowhere is far too dangerous and leave you having to defend rather than you pressuring up in their half. Possibly this could be the change of laws and rules now on trial in the premiership this season in which the players and officials have to adapt to. For the referees it must be even harder, for example Wayne Barnes refereed a fixture in the Championship tournament going on at the moment, where they are using the cadence 'crouch, touch, pause and set'. Then he has to officiate an Aviva Premiership game where the new cadence is 'crouch, touch and set' is in place. So for international players and Refs its a confusing time hopefully when the trial is over we will see a global ruling as in which other sport has different laws in different countries?
After a small time sat talking to him he invited me to his office where he had video clips to show me and help explain the theory behind the plan. Bath have been accused by many people (including myself) of relentlessly kicking the ball away, I was proved wrong! In the clips I viewed showed that Quins and Super 15 champions Chiefs, who are considered the most running rugbying teams, kick from hand more than you would believe. The problem is Bath get spotted as the kicks aren't going to the destination required whereas Quins and Chiefs execute theirs well. If a ball is kicked over a flat line into space to put them under pressure to potentially knock, make a mistake or even rush a short kick into touch that would be well executed. If you punt it straight down the throat of the full back allowing them to either counter attack or pick a well placed kick it is wasted ball. A prime example he made for Bath was in the saints game, Biggs chip for Abendanon's try and Barkley's chip through at the end. Biggs chip was barely mentioned as it was the right choice and worked. Barkley's chip through was far from the right choice and went dead. It's all about making the right choice and executing it well!
He said in regards to Barkley it wouldn't be fair as a coach to stop him from moving on, its a deal many would not say no to. With Donald, Heathcote, Banahan and Williams plus young Olly Devoto coming through as an exciting prospect at 10 Bath have a good depth in 10's and 12's. Barkley has been a good servant of the club and everybody supports his decision to move on and wishes him nothing but good luck.
Another little issue I asked about was regarding Bret Sharman. Because of his Twitter discrepancies he has become far from liked player in England, so why would Bath want him? Bath need to have four hookers listed for ERC competition, with Webber out they're one short. It's only a short term loan and as Sharman is very remorseful for his actions and is hungry to play and show he demonstrate his ability. So Bath really have nothing to lose, a hungry, talented and wanting to prove his worth as a player filling a space in the squad surely that's a positive move.
There was many other topics discussed ranging from the Rec, Rugby World Cup, Bath rugby history, Dewi Morris and Stuart Barnes. For me it was a very enlightening meeting and learnt a great deal.
I felt lucky to meet a Bath legend and I believe a future Bath legend. All Bath rugby fans want nothing more than to see them run out victorious and with GG at the helm I truly believe that is possible. I have learnt and hope many others will look at the bigger picture rather than the short term.