Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Caught between a rock and a hard place!

The dust is starting to settle slightly from the eruption that happened at Bath Rugby on Monday. When the news broke that Gary Gold and Bath had parted company; the fans, the press and everybody in English rugby went into meltdown.

Disbelief, anger, confusion filled the internet, and the most asked question was 'why?'
A question Bath were unable to answer, and as lack of answers followed so did the anger and speculation. Driven by the growing pressure to speak out Bath released their statement.

“Bath Rugby can today confirm that Gary Gold has left the club with immediate effect.

“The decision was taken following a restructure in the rugby department and with the best interests of both Gary and the club in mind.

“No further comment will be made until it is appropriate.”

A statement that was surely the work of Bath's legal team, leading to further speculation and a sence things hadn't finished to amicably.
We can speculate and guess at the reasons for the untimely departure but we just don't have the information and with the back up tweet from Bath it seems their hands are legally bound.

"@bathrugby: We know today's news was big, but we have said all we are currently permitted to say. If we can tell you more soon, we promise we will."

From this it seems that Bath are "caught between a rock and a hard place".
They have received a barrage of Tweets, Facebook messages etc. demanding answers, yet they can't!!

How could Bath get it so wrong? Because no matter how you weigh this it was a catrascophic PR disaster.
As the news was leaked Bath had to rush a statement, but why were they already not prepared for the chance this could happen?
For some reason Bath leaks information like somebody has left the plug out (sorry terrible pun); for example players linked with the club, then denied leading to them actually signing. With this knowledge surely a contingency plan surely needed to be put into action.
Even as the supporters had their backs up another rumour began to speculate; Steve McNamara the England Rugby League coach was coming to join Bath as skills/attack coach, more perfect timing!

Bath has suffered some serious bad PR in the past; drugs, punches and even previous parting of coaching staff members, yet Bath seems not to of learnt from these episodes. Unfortunately due to this a top class professional rugby club is starting to look very poorly run.

Gary Gold was a big favourite with the supporters and a big loss in our eyes. He put himself out there and happily interacted with the fans helping to build the #BathFamily.
I was lucky enough to visit him at Farlirgh and he showed me the aims and targets he had for Bath, a truly knowledgeable and passionate human being.
After his departure the fact that he even made the effort to Direct Message the fans thanking them for their support, indicating what the club and its supporters meant to him.
A huge shame that at the end of his tenure we as fans didn't have the chance to bid him a proper fair well with a round of applause at the Rec.

All in all we are passionate about the club, this shows in the attendances at home games, but a little faith has been knocked and I for one hope Bath can work to regain it.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Rugby world cup ticket prices

The excitement for the Rugby world cup coming to England is starting to grow with less than two years until kick off. Today saw the full schedule and ticket pricing being released for the Rugby World cup 2015, coming with some interesting results.

High ticket prices had been expected, but I feel many rugby fans hadn't quite realised the full extent of what faced them.
Mainly what it will cost to be an English rugby fan and to follow and support them at live games.

There is a large spectrum of price ranges through the group stages. Broken down into four categories; A,B,C and D.
Class D being the cheapest and A being the most expensive. There are a few fixtures running with category D tickets for £15 for an adult and £7 for a child, a category A in the same fixture will cost £60. Great pricing and will enable more fans to go to visit some of the lesser teams play and create a good atmosphere in which some of thw teams nay not of played in.

In an opposite pole of this other fixtures featuring the "big name's" in rugby certainly are priced differently. A prime example is France v Italy at the millennium stadium where a category D is £50 and category A £250.
It is England (the home nation) that will cost the most to watch in the group stages. Starting prices at Twickenham are £75 then raising up to £315!!!!

The biggest shock comes with the tickets to the semi-finals and final; category D £150 and category A £715 with no concessions at all.

So why are the English fans being hit so hard and are the everyday fan being priced out of the bigger matches? Is the greatest spectacle in the rugby world being overrun by corporate side of rugby?

What's your view?
Are the cost of rugby world cup tickets out pricing fans?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Monday night lights

In and around the Aviva Premiership there are many tournaments in which the teams take part in. There is the league itself but tournaments such as the Heineken cup, Amlin challenge cup, LV=Cup also the JP Morgans 7's tournament . But a tournament growing pace now is the Aviva 'A' league, in which popularity is growing amongst the supporters.

The popularity of "Monday night lights" is ever growing. Many spectators making the away journeys as well as making sure they see the home fixtures. 
The clubs themselves are publicising the fixtures more, giving match updates on Twitter for those who have not made the journey or are unable to make the game. Bath rugby even went through a stage of live streaming the home matches on Facebook.

For any rugby fan the 'A' league is a great place to learn more about your adopted club and also opposing clubs. With a mixture of academy, returning injured players or just squad members needing more game time the 'A' league boasts them all. The standard of rugby for the 'A' league is really of a high standard, the players are out to prove their abilities to the coaching staff and potentially stake a claim for a first XV place. There's an edge of rawness about the play, as I had it described to me " they get to play instinctive rugby rather than a procession of pre-planned moves".

With the 'A' league running along side the premiership you have all 12 teams represented in the league, then it is split into two separate divisions of Northern Conference and southern Conference. The  semi finals are then held between the top placed team of one sub division against the runner up of the other, with first place drawing the home fixture. 
The Northern Conference consists of - Northampton Wanderers, Sale Jets, Leicester Tigers, Gloucester United, Newcastle Falcons and Worcester Cavaliers.
The Southern Conference contains the other six teams - Exeter Braves, Bath United, London Irish, London Wasps, Harlequins and Saracens Storm.
At the end of the the league stages the Northern Conference finished with Northampton topping the table and Sale as runners up, the Southern Conference was topped by Bath and Harlequins taking second place. The semi finals are now set to take place on Monday the 25th of November - Northampton Wanderers v Harlequins at Franklins gardens and Bath United v Sale Jets at the Recreation Ground.

As a Bath fan I've visited many Monday nights at the Rec, with free entry, food and the bar being open it adds to the enjoyment of a true rugby evening, just sit back and enjoy some great rugby!
This season Bath United have put a good campaign together and had a great run in the league, winning 4/5 games, scoring 189 points with 24 tries, conceding 84 points. Their only loss came at the hands of Exeter Braves at the Rec with Braves scoring a last minute try winning the game 27-32.
Bath have put a lot into their United team, coached by the Academy Director of Rugby Ex-Bath, England and Lions legend Danny Grewcock and fielding some top players who could walk into many first teams. This season we've been shown the talents of Biggs, Agulla, Henson, Gilbert and Heathcote to name just a few. Captained by local boy Kane Palma-Newport the team has performed well and show some flashes of skill that the first XV would be proud of.
Within the 'A' league new discoveries can be made and a special note for Bath definitely goes to Saeed Agboke who showed with his brace of tries against Braves great pace and tenacity, definitely one for the future.

All pictures courtesy of  Ian, @uksportingspics

so if you support Northampton or Harlequins get yourself to Franklins Gardens on the 25th of November or alternatively book you free ticket also on the 25th to Watch Bath v Sale and show your support!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


Earlier this week I managed to meet up with Bath back row player Mat Gilbert. Fresh from a convincing victory against Saracens Storm the night before we caught up in one of his locals (it's ok Mr Gold he was drinking coke).

Mat has had an interesting career so far, Hartpury college and playing in Gloucester 'A' team, 2 stints in Italy, Llanelli and Scarlets and now residing at Bath Rugby. Mat was very open and honest with his answers as he explains things haven't totally gone to plan at times in his career.

Congratulations on another great performance last night, another win and again another try!

It's just being in the right place at the right time!!

You're playing some great rugby at the moment and with every game having a solid performance, doing your job and grabbing a few tries. How are you enjoying your rugby at Bath?

The tries I've scored this season have come off of driving from the lineout, a big team effort a big forwards effort. And obviously I'm just lucky enough to be the one who gets the ball down.
Tom Dunn got one last night and Anthony Perenise got one against Falcons, it's just a great forwards effort and everyone knows that in the team.
All if the supporters and press see it as 'Mat Gilbert try' but amongst the player's and coaching staff see it as a forwards performance.
I love Bath, it's a really good club. I came from Scarlets so I'm used to a big club, with a lot of tradition and expectations.
There's a really good group of guys and good coaching and management set up, yeah it's a really good club to be at.

There's a great depth in back row players for Bath this season is the completion to get a place tough between the players?

Yeah massively! You look at François Louw who's probably one of the greatest open sides in the world, Fearsy fit, Matt Garvey has joined the club and made a huge impact, and also Leroy (Houston) as well. So fortunately every at the moment is on top form which pushes everyone else and everyone pushes each other, so we're lucky enough to be able to create that environment where we can push ourselves to be the best we can be to get selected.

You're becoming a favourite with the fans and many are championing you for more first team starts, does the fan support drive you on towards gaining more first XV appearances?

Fans are very important for the club, yeah it's nice to have support on Twitter and I do try my hardest to respond to as many as I can. It's the same as when I was in Wales, I tried to keep a good dialogue with the fans, I think it's important because really they're ultimately the one's paying our wages.
I do try my best to engage with people, I suppose it's the way I am and the way I've been brought up.

You're very proud of you Hartpury roots, with such success in rugby it's not surprising, was Hartpury the driving force behind you wanting to be a professional player?

Yeah massively! I went to a military school in Dover, as my father was in the army. I played through under 7's up to under 18's and county rugby, when I went to Uni I loved my rugby but didn't think of it as a career.
I applied to go to UWE, they looked at my CV and thought it better if I went to Hartpury. I turned up at Hartpury and the wealth of talent was phenomenal. In the first year I played for the club on Saturdays in the Gloucester premier league. With players like Dan Norton, you look at the Gloucester back line with Trinder, May, Sharples they all come from Hartpury.

The season after you moved on to Aghero you became top try scorer, for a back row that's pretty good going, was the lure to come back to Britain for a bigger challenge with Llanelli an easy choice?

I didn't realise I was the top try scorer, had no idea of that just scored a few. That was a great year in Aghero in Sardinia, I'd just left uni and didn't have any direction in life I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I didn't want to go to work but then this offer came up to play in Italy, the offer also came up with another lad from uni. It was challenging, the level wasn't great but we had a great time. Aghero is a lovely place and the other international player there I'd played with at academy level, so I knew him, so the three of us had a good laugh and just passed the ball between us. The rugby wasn't great but it really was a lovely place to live.
It got me away, after four years in Gloucester and owning a house there it was very difficult to leave. With being a Hartpury for four years  I thought 'right I've got to leave Hartpury now'. Because I had the tie of the house  I found it difficult to accept offers from championship sides, I didn't want to go and rent a house somewhere else, going to Italy helped me to break all ties.

With Llanelli you progressed to playing for Scarlets and even got to play in the Heineken cup, you received much acclaim there, what led to you leaving and heading back to Italy?

I had no choice. It was not through my choice to leave.
They ended up with a shortage of second rows, Dom (Day) obviously left everyone seemed to desert them from the second row. My contract hadn't been renewed, it had been agreed in principal but hadn't been signed, and with a loaded back row and shortage of second rows they needed the money to buy more second row players.
Unfortunately it left me without a club, I wanted to stay in Wales. I did everything I could to stay with Llanelli, but you can't help with budgeting and I had no part in their bigger picture.

You originally came to Bath from Mogliano as injury cover, before securing a full contract. I understand you weren't entirely happy at mogliano and with the Amlin Challenge cup fixtures coming up how will it feel playing against them?

In regards to the time scale and what happened with Scarletts I wasn't left with a great deal of choice, most clubs had done their recruiting. I had a few options of a couple of championship sides or go to Mogliano. I did a bit research and previous players were saying it's a great club, they were in the Amlin cup and saw it ad a bit of a window. I didn't think the standard wouldn't be great but if I put in some good performances there could be a route back to the Rabo or even the premiership, so my sole focus was to perform well in the Amlin and try to to get back to a decent standard again.
My levels if expectations of Mogliano were too high, coming from a highly professional club like Scarletts then going to a fairly basic almost amateur setup made me realise it wasn't what I wanted and wasn't going to make my career.
After say six games, two of which were Amlin, I had a discussion with the club and mutually agreed to terminate my contract. It was easier to come home and find a club, your much more appealing as a free agent.
I preferred my time in Aghero over Mogliano but I did get on with the guys, my main problem was with the coaching structure and the way then went about coaching, not the personalities. So when they come over I'll be able to have a little dialogue with them in my basic Italian. It won't be difficult to play them, I'm in a much happier place now. It was interesting when they got pulled out to play us in the Amlin and I realised we would play and it's a good chance to stick two fingers up as we beat them.
No to be honest I'd much rather play against Scarletts would be better rivalry and competition.

You've also represented the English deaf rugby team and Barbarians, I'm pretty sure the dream is there to manage to reach the EPS team and play at Twickenham again.

Every boys dream!!
I've always said 'If you don't aspire to play for your country then you shouldn't be playing at all.' every boys dreams of playing for their country no matter what the sport, how high I'm off that I don't know but obviously it would be fantastic.

Being a deaf top flight rugby player you are often called an 'inspiration' and many look up to to you, do you treat it as normality and at times frustrating that your always referred to as 'Mat Gilbert the deaf rugby player' rather than just 'Mat Gilbert the rugby player'?

Yeah some times, I've done interviews before where it's been 'your deaf this, your deaf that'! You know but basically I'm the same as everyone else in this game, I haven't got here because I'm deaf, in fairness it's probably been harder to get here. Yeah basically I'm Mat Gilbert the rugby player who happens to be deaf not Mat Gilbert the deaf rugby player. It's something that's always going to be with me, it's part of me but it doesn't define me.

We are all aware of the huge amount of banter that goes around the club, but you seem to be caught up in quite a bit of it. Two points in this are-
1) what's the deal with you and Dom Day over the towels???

Well it doesn't happen often here but when were playing together in Wales basically every day my towel was wet, it probably wasn't always Dom, but it's happened a few times here and I change next to Dom so I blame him. It's not the end of the world I can live with a wet towel.

2) a lovely picture was released on Twitter from Micky Young, will you be looking to get any payback?

That machine is designed to stretch your back out, so you lock you feet in and it tips you upside down. I was wary of there being a few people around, it happens to a few people you're tipped upside down and but for me the culprit took it to the next level, took my shorts down attached them to the foot holding and left me stranded. It's just some good humour but it terms if payback we'll have to see, but I've been at the club long enough to know not to hang upside down when there's too many people around.

You are seeming pretty settled around the area, especially even turning out for a game of cricket at Hinton Charterhouse, are you seeing a long turn stay in and around Bath?

Yeah we're in the middle of buying a house in Bath. I've got a two year contract now and hopefully I can push on and prove my worth to the club then with luck that can get renewed.
We love the city, my brother lives in Bristol, Fiona's parents live in Salisbury, her brother lives in Gloucester and all my old Hartbury friends are around the area so it's a great base to make.
Even if things don't work out and I have to move on it's great to have a house in the city and it's very beneficial to us.
I love living in the village at the moment, all the guys have been really supportive. Just popping up to the post office and having a chat it's great.

What do you see the full potential for Bath over the next few seasons are?

The management team have done a great job in recruitment this year, they've done a lot of hard work and some structural things have been put in place. Ultimately the club wants to push on, driving and pushing on with what we've got. Where the club goes...who Knows, obviously other clubs are progressing as well. You look at clubs like London Irish bringing in James O'Connor, the players are coming in. It won't get any easier we just have to make sure we can do is to be in the best possible position to compete, which Bruce, Gary and Mike are trying to do.

You're performing great with the United team playing in the 'A' league, finishing top of the table shows there's more commitment towards it this season.

This season there's a really good vibe about the club, people want to play rugby.
When I was at Hartpury playing in the Gloucester 'A' team it wasn't very good. They had a few university guys playing, a few old boys but the full time professionals weren't interested, they just didn't want to bother with the Monday night's.
Now it's a case of the boys wanting to play, wanting to perform. You look at the team that was put out last night, international players not going out there thinking 'why the hell am I playing on a Monday night?' everybody is buying in to it, you've got to get as much game time.

Its been brilliant talking to you and hopefully you'll get Gloucester in the next round of the 'A' league, I understand their game is next Monday.

Yeah hopefully a few Hartpury boys will be out! Cheers thank you.

 pictures courtesy of Chris Clemence. @Chris_Clemence

Monday, 28 October 2013

Could Bath be moving in the right direction

This season seems to be one of the most open campaigns, as the majority of teams have the ability to beat each other.

A possible exception to that would be Saracens and Saints who just appear to be that next level above. With the fixture between both sides at the weekend and Saints managed to even make Sarries look ordinary. It was a total masterclass on what the other premiership teams are aiming to reach.
When you weigh up the teams from third to eleventh in the league they all be playing on an almost a level playing field. But sitting at the top of that tree of teams is Bath Rugby, and things do look to be moving in a positive direction.

Six rounds of the Aviva premiership have passed now and Bath are sitting third behind Saracens and Saints winning four from six, one of the two losses coming from the top of the table Sarries.
Many Bath fans will say with the team selection against Sarries they went to Allianz Park with the belief they would not win, almost damage limitation, saving players for the following fixture against London Irish and gain a full five points. The second half against Sarries was a strong performance but sadly the damage was already done.
The other loss came at the hands of Sale Sharks, a victory orchestrated by a very in form Danny Cipriani.
Both losses came on the road whereas the home form has been impeccable with victories over Tiger's, Irish and the latest triumph in the local Derby against Gloucester.

The Gloucester tie is a big game in any Bath fan's calendar, and to take the spoils brings big smiles with extra bragging rights.
There was plenty to take from the Gloucester game, such dominance from the forwards although not completely reflected on the score board. Regardless of views of performance, decisions and how the game went Bath won which is the importance of such a fixture.

A huge positive note with Bath is the immense depth in the squad, this has become evident when it comes to Aviva 'A' League. The starting XV to take on Saracens Storm in the 'A' league is littered with players ultimately who could walk into the first XV.
15. Nick Abendanon
14. Richard Lane
13. Horacio Agulla
12. Ollie Devoto
11. Tom Biggs
10. Gavin Henson
9. Chris Cook
1. Charlie Beech
2. Tom Dunn
3. Kane Palma-Newport ( c )
4. Will Spencer
5. Ryan Caldwell
6. Tom Ellis
7. Mat Gilbert
8. Will Skuse
A seriously strong looking 'second' string team.

With one away win under their belt in the premiership which came on a damp evening in Newcastle on the opening weekend of the season, with round seven comes a trip to Sixways against Worcester Warriors, can they grab their second victory on the road?
With Warriors struggling at the bottom of the table holding only two points, a victory looks like they're in with a very good chance, although nothing should ever be taken for granted.
A win with a try scoring bonus point will help to keep Bath in third spot while taking the  a breather in the premiership for the LV=Cup, leaving Bath in a good position and a good platform to build for the rest of the season.

Ok let's possibly not get too over excited, but from the signs so far a top four position isn't a too much to hope for from the Bath fan's, to become champions is a little too big a step but they're definitely taking strides in the right direction.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Ross Batty- Rugby, KO's and the Beard!

After a few season at Bath rugby now Ross Batty is now really starting to develop himself into the squad and becoming a regular in the first team.

Formally of Newcastle Falcons and Rotherham he joined the ranks at Bath in 2010, when then forwards coach Martin Haag showed faith in him after getting to know Batty when he was coaching the England U18's side in which Batty featured.

Photo courtesy of

I was lucky enough to grab a few words with Ross earlier this week before Bath start their European campaign this weekend against Bordeaux. I managed to discuss his early days from school to Newcastle Falcons and about his KO against Tigers. 

Starting off your career with Newcastle Falcons working your way through the ranks from the academy, then moving on to Rotherham, how did it feel to get back into the Premiership with Bath? 

Brilliant, fantastic, it was a great chance to sign for a big club. I really enjoyed my time at Rotherham. It was great to play in a tough league, championship rugby week in week out and to be part of a team and then to move to Bath was a fantastic opportunity. 

Training alongside side such players as Lee Mears and Rob Webber has this helped with your development? 

Mearsy spent a lot of time with me and it was absolutely incredible, always there and always willing to help me out, he's that type if guy who wants you to do well. He put a lot of faith in me, giving me plenty of tips. He's got a wealth of knowledge and an incredible CV, he's been there done that and done everything you could possibly want to do in the game, somebody you'd really like to learn from. 

What was it that made you make the change from Prop to Hooker?
I started out playing in the back row, but moved into the front row. With my build I was not really going to be one of the big guy props like Davey Wilson, with my back row experience hooker was the right choice a mix between prop and back row. There's so much more to think about as hooker, with the line outs, scrums and still getting about the pitch to the break down, a really enjoyable challenge. 

You went to Bernard castle school, which is well known for its sport especially Rugby, is that where you found your passion? 

I suppose yeah it did come from there, well definitely helped it. It was a great school and had a really good set up, they were definitely there to encourage you and help drive you on. Definitely a big part of my game and love of the game.

How has is it been linking up with some of your ex-Falcons team mates at Bath. 

In the rugby world everybody knows each other as you play against each other and get to know the guys from other teams. But moving club and meeting up with fellow team mates can help, linking up with Davey Wilson again as we were in the academy together and now Micky Young has signed there's a few old familiar faces.

While you were at Falcons you were part of their Middlesex Sevens winning team, did you find that beneficial to your game play?

Sevens is a tough game, but is really helpful with adding extra to your game. Due to my old back row play I was ok at getting around the field and it helps sharpen up your awareness and skills which you can move into your normal game. It's great fun to play a good learning tool but also really hard work.

How was it to get back to play at Kingston park for the first game of the season and win so well, in Newcastle's individual weather system?

Ha yeah it certainly is an 'individual' form of weather up there! A Friday night, under the lights and in that rain it was going to be a tough game. So glad the way we played and how well we dealt with the 'washing machine' weather. To take any win there is hard work with such a strong crowd, a great way to start the season.

Watching it on TV I was certainly glad I wasn't playing in that.

Yeah certainly was fun, you definitely had the right idea staying at home watching it, some of us weren't that lucky hahahaha.

During the Tigers match you unfortunately got knocked unconscious. The silence around the ground showed great respect and obviously a lot of concern, it's never nice to see a player in that situation. How much of that day can you remember?

Not a lot to be honest! I can remember going in for a tackle and then about four hours later. Apparently my girlfriend was sat beside me at the hospital and I looked at her several times as though I didn't know her. I've been told by many of the guys that I was out for a while but really don't know much about it. 
The messages of support and get well soon I received on Twitter from the players and the fans was amazing, it really showed a great sense of family that surrounds the club which is what makes it so special to be apart of it.

Twitter is really good for us fans as we are able to communicate with you guys and get an insight the the club, especially the banter that goes on.

The banter between the boys is brilliant, they're a great set of guys and it's a pleasure to play with them. Because of the banter and enjoyment it makes it a pleasure to go to work in the morning knowing your going to have a good laugh with some of your mates.

On the note of banter lets get onto the beard!!! How much ribbing do you get? 

(Laughs) yeah I do get a lot of stick about it, with plenty of nicknames to go with it one being tramp! But to be honest I don't think it'll be around for too much longer as the girl friend really isn't a fan, and at times you need to keep them happy.

But the beard is almost becoming synonymous with you like Biggs and his hair.

Haahaa I don't think I've quite hit the heights of Biggsy's hair but thanks! I'll see how it goes but don't think it will last too long.

Thanks for taking the time out to speak to me, do you think you'll feature on Saturday against Bordeaux?

Been a pleasure and yeah I'll get a good run out it should be a great game, the French clubs are always tough so we'll have to be at our best.

A big thanks to Ross for taking time out to talk to me and hopefully the beard can stay and he can carry on looking like Bath's ginger version of Chabal! Good luck at the weekend and let's hope the Bath European campaign can't start with a good win and continue through the rest of the competition.

Allez Bath!!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Saracens ticket offers or gimmicks??

For the second home fixture in a row Saracens are advertising an away fans ticket offer.

Anybody with a Gloucester postcode had the offer last week; if they travelled up the Allianz Park and Gloucester win they would receive a full ticket refund, also the offer extended to if Saracens won a refund would also be given. A good offer basically go and watch Sarries and Gloucester for free, a few Gloucester fans picked up on the parking or alternative public transport costs choices that were given out by Saracens, but all in all not a bad offer?

A full ground for the first home game of the season always brings a great atmosphere, so enticing opposing supporters will help to build that.
Armed with a sparkling new ground and the much talked about playing surface surely the capacity of 10,000 should be easily filled? So why only 9,200 arrived at the Allianz park even with the refund ticket offer for the travelling Gloucester fans?

With the second home fixture Sarries bring out a second ticket offer, only this offer has a very tongue in cheek side to it.

Saracens are offering Bath fans a unique opportunity to get their money back if Gavin Henson scores a point during the top of the table clash at Allianz Park on Sunday.

Clare Jackson of Saracens Supporters Services explains; “If Gavin Henson scores a point at Allianz Park this Sunday we will give Bath fans their money back – but you need to have a Bath postcode as your home address”.

“It really is that simple – if Gavin gets on the score sheet, Bath fans can travel back home this Sunday with a full refund”.

How are we meant to perceive this latest ticket offering from Saracens?

Banter in rugby is one of my favourite things in rugby, fans having a light hearted non-malicious poke at players and fans all in jest, but is this acceptable from a club?
I'm sure it's aimed to encourage publicity, media speculation and sell extra seats. For these reasons the marketing team from Saracens has managed to succeed, but is it fair to target an ex-player of their club in such a way?

All rugby spectators are very much of Henson's misdemeanours and his introduction to Bath hasn't been smooth. Henson hasn't helped himself over the years (understatement) but from what we are now led to believe Bath are trying to keep him shielded and allow his rugby to do the talking. A large portion of the Bath faithful were not keen on him joining the club, but he's here now and a Bath player therefore deserves the support of the fans.

To play devils advocate for a balancing point how would Saracens feel if Bath chose a similar option, and made a similar deal for one of Bath ex-players now at Sarries.....Matt Stevens.
Matt Stevens left Bath in what can be described as 'bad circumstances' resulting in a 2 year ban. Now there are many puns in which you can make yet all would be in bad taste, so is it fair to isolate Henson??

Love him or hate him I can now assure you the dream this Sunday for the Bath fans is to go to Allianz park, beat Sarries and with Henson making the winning kick........ A big ask but how good would it be! 

The Gloucester deal I felt was not a bad offer to entice the cherry and whites down to Barnet but this Henson offer is possibly a little bit of a stretch. Saracens are being innovative with there offers that can't be denied just don't make it personal. Henson's media hype makes him all to easy a target and allows the media to jump straight on the story.

In the end let's hope it's a good fixture and hopefully Bath can take the spoils.

Friday, 6 September 2013

A great morning to have a launch!

The captains runs at the Rec are something that that children and fans are starting to look forward to in the rugby Calendar. Allowing the public to watch their favourite players and the team run through their final training session before an up coming fixture; also offering the chance to meet the team and grab a quick photo or autograph. It's a great way to bring the club closer to the supporters and helping building a community built around rugby.

The latest captains run was a little more special than normal. With the build up to Bath's final pre-season fixture against Ospreys an important run through was needed.
But not only was the training followed by the meet and great of normal open sessions, this time they had a few little added bonuses for the children.

Following the session there was the launch of the 'Children's challenge'.

  " Bath Rugby has launched a new.  initiative to inspire more children in the local community to lead fitter, healthier and more active lifestyles."

The Children’s Challenge has been created by the players for children up to the age of 15, a collection of fitness challenges designed to encourage them to get outside and practice and challenge themselves instead of being glued to the TV or a games console. As an added incentive members of the squad have also taken part in the tasks, giving a target and comparison for the children to one day aspire to.

The Bath Rugby Children’s challenges are:-

To sprint 50m as fast as Tom Biggs - set a time on the 50 m sprint challenge

Hula Hoop longer than Dave Attwood

Do as many “keepie-uppies” with a rugby ball as Matt Banahan

Take the Kyle Eastmond quick feet challenge

Kick a ball between two cones like Tom Heathcote

The whole children's challenge comes as a part of the newly launched Bath Rugby Junior membership. Bath are really driving an initiative to include their young supporters and encourage them improving their fitness.
The youngsters will get many opportunities to take part in the challenges through the up coming season at home games.

Along with the junior membership and children's challenges Bath also unveiled their laters signing, the new Bath Rugby Mascot Max. Max is a lion in full Roman apparel feeding off of the history of the city.
Max was met with mixed responses, children loved him yet adults were dubious. I'm sure within time he will become accepted by both sets of fans, as the elder generations will see how the youngsters enjoy his presence.

I was lucky enough to grab a few words with newly promoted Head Coach Mike Ford about the new initiative.

Is the children's challenge a concept that Bath Rugby have been thinking of for a while?

I'm not totally sure on the length of time, but it has been planned fir a while with our community and commercial teams.
It's a great idea and initiative to challenge kids to get out and be healthy, doing exercise and take part in these 5 challenges. It also works perfectly with launching our new junior membership club.

Bath have run the centurion club over recent seasons, the new membership club appears to trying to incorporate the children into the club more.

A lot of thought has gone into all of this, did you see the mascot earlier? Big lad isn't he, thinking we could possibly slip him into the second row.

Yes what is the thinking behind with the mascot?

We're following through with the whole Roman thing , even the calls this season feed from that, it's linking the heritage of the city more into the club we're proud of its history and want to represent that at the club.

Who came up with the ideas for the five challenges and the players involved? I understand Kyle Eastwood with the fast feet, Biggsie with the sprint, Heathcote on the kicking but the most confusing is Dave Attwood on the hula hooping challenge?

The challenges were designed by the team. The challenges are designed not just to be about rugby, it's aimed to get the kids out have fun exercising and tear them away from the games consoles. They're aimed that anybody can do them so the parents can do them with the kids and help encourage them to do them.
With the hula hoop why not big Dave Attwood? Just shows anyone can and if he can do 30 in 30 seconds it's a good comparison and benchmark for you to try for.
We just want to see more kids out there trying these and seeing how they progress through the season.

All in all a fantastic morning at the Rec showing how Bath are intending to help the local community grow integrating rugby in it.
With David Flatman armed with a microphone to be the compare for the morning (future stadium announcer) and a visit from his walking comedy material Duncan Bell a good atmosphere was built. All together an informative and witty performance from Flats, including some heavy banter towards players boots especially Banners (jealousy), helped make it a great morning. A job well done by Bath Rugby and long may it continue.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Welcome to Bath Micky Young!

One of the new boys drafted into Bath this season by Gary Gold is ex Falcons, Tigers and Sevens player Micky Young.

A traditional scrum half who is small, nippy and delivers good distribution of the ball. He is also well know for having a little bit of a firey temperament and plays with full commitment. With training alongside a legendary scrum half in the form of Peter Stringer it can only help improve his already growing talent.

I believe the 'mighty' Micky young could be an inspired acquisition made by Bath. And I was lucky enough to speak to him last week on the phone calling from France as he was waiting to take on his old club Falcons in their 21-21 draw.

Welcome to Bath! You've been here for a few weeks now, how are you settling in to the club?

Been down here now for a few months and really settling in, there's a great group of lads here and the city is great. The set up at Bath is really good and I can't wait to get out on the pitch.

With you and George ford signing at the same time has it made it easier to join a new club with a fellow team-mate? Plus the added bonus of having Biggsy there as you have both shared a lot of history playing together.

It does help having others around you that you know and have played with, but all the guys here have made it such an easy move.

What lead to you making the decision to leave Tigers for Bath?

Looking at the direction Bath are looking to go I felt it is a positive move, a chance of first team rugby and help take them back up the table made it a positive move for me.

Having Ben youngs as the first choice scrum half at tigers was it getting frustrating with the lack of first team starts.

Team selections and injuries did make the two years there frustrating, I like to play so on the bench isn't where I wanted to be.

There's a great set up at Farleigh how's the training going? Is there much difference between Bath, Tigers or Falcons in the facilities?

Farleigh is just an incredible place, the facilities are just incredible. The other two clubs are not even close to Bath's training facilities.

How has the training regime been so far?

Hard and intense but delivering good results and bringing a good squad of guys together.

Was Poland really as much fun as you guys made it out to be?

We did have a good time out there, it was incredibly hard work and some of the hardest I've worked but a great bonding time.

On your return from Poland you made the trip back to your motherland of Hartlepool, I understand that you family is very important to you is it going to be hard living so far away from them?

We're lucky we live in a small country so they can travel down. They come to all my games to give their support. It great having them at the games.
I'm loving the city itself and settling nicely, really is a great place.

Your brother Christopher plays for west Hartlepool has there ever been any competition between you as brothers? Obviously him being a flanker it's difficult to make comparisons but surely there has to be a little brotherly rivalry?

Rugby wise there isn't any competition as he's taken another route, he's followed through doing his uni work as I've concentrated on rugby. There is a brotherly rivalry in different aspects of our lives, as brothers do, but generally we do support each other in what we do.

You've had a little experience wearing the red rose of England with the Saxons and of coarse the sevens are you hoping the move to Bath will help you move towards a potential EPS call up one day?

Every player dreams of playing for their country and England would be a dream. At the moment I just want to play for the club and repay them for bringing me in. I just want to do my job and hopefully see Bath do well, at the moment that's all I'm concentrating on.

You managed some good success with the sevens notably scoring the winning try at Twickenham in 2009, I was lucky enough to be there, would you crown that as your greatest moment in the sevens shirt?

Without doubt!! To score the winning try at Twickenham against the All Blacks is a dream. It was over in a flash though, wished the moment had lasted longer it all seemed like a dream!

Ben Ryan recently stepping down as the sevens coach came a shock he helped bring the game forward in England, how much of an inspiration was he to you personally?

Banji really was great and helped and encouraged me, generally a really great guy and done wonders for sevens and me. It was a great to be in the set up and Banji did a really good job of running it. He supported a drove all the boys on.

Do you think he will be missed or do you think he's developed a good set up for his successor to help drive them on?

Banji will be missed but the set up he has helped to create has seen a great group of lads come together and the next coach should be able to follow on in his work, possibly taking them on further.

Banter has always been a big part of rugby and there seems to be a good element of banter and camaraderie at Bath, how are you finding it and who is the biggest joker in the squad?

There is a lot that goes on between the boys, to be honest there's a big list here. The two that stand out for me is obviously Biggsy who has always been a joker, and also one of the guys leading the pack is Kano.

With Bath's first premiership game being against Newcastle will it be good to run out at Kingston park again if only for the opposing team?

It would be great to run out at Kingston park again it holds great memories for me. Last time I was there was with Tigers and I was on the bench, would love to get back out there and play and enjoy that atmosphere.

Your first potential outing at the Rec is against Tigers, it's always good to see Bath beat Tigers but for you does it hold a more poignant moment for you first home game wearing a Bath shirt?

For me is first of all to get picked, that's the main aim at the moment. I can't wait to get out onto the Rec and play in front of the home crowd, it's an amazing place and love the family feeling there. I want to play that's really what I want to do, play well and repay the club for believing in me.
I do know that for the Bath fans to beat Tigers at home is a great thing, just hope I can help do that.

Big thanks Micky and really hope it goes well for you, thanks for taking time out to speak to me.

A big thanks to Bath and David Flatman for organising the interview lets hope for a good season for Bath and Micky as well.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Who will lead the Blue, Black and White army into battle?

Not sure if you're aware yet but the start of the Aviva Premiership is almost upon us! It's been kept quite low key with very little build up.

The jigsaw for Bath Rugby is so nearly complete for the impending season.
New signing's- check, list of fixtures- check, new kit- check, club captain- still on the to-do list.
So who will be this season man to guide the storming band of men in Blue, Black and White onto the battlefield this season?

This season I feel Bath actually have an abundance of players that can take that role, a first time for many seasons. After two unlucky seasons for Stuart Hooper, injuries certainly plaguing his tenure, will Gary Gold will select a new General?

With this question in mind I thought I'd throw it out on Twitter to see who the fans would elect as the club captain, armed with a few suggestions I awaited their views. Suggestions of François Louw, Matt Banahan, Nick Abendanon, Stuart Hooper, Rob Webber or any other suggested players.

The Bath faithful as always were happy to voice their options and reasonings behind their selections. From the list came two big forerunners and one suggestion I'd not put in my original line up. Between the three supporters captain elect came in the form of Webber, Louw and Attwood. Three players who had phenomenal seasons for Bath and always played with 100%, but what are their credentials for becoming the captain to lead Bath?

Dave Attwood after two strong seasons at Bath he's enjoying a resurgence in form which has seen him enjoy a recall to the England squad, a solid tour of Argentina has seen Stuart Lancaster select him for the EPS for the autumn internationals. A regular starter now for Bath and a player who plays with such intensity, passion and skill could he be the chosen one?

François Louw an absolute class player, no world class player! Picked for the Bok's for the upcoming rugby championship many consider him as the best at his position in the world at this time. So solid and dependable for Bath and also captained them on many occasion, leading by example on the pitch and now with his 'long term" contract extension is more proof to the commitment of the club his has. A firm fans favourite Louw is a strong candidate for the appointment.

Rob Webber signed for Bath with a shoulder injury the Bath supporters were desperate to see him don the Bath shirt and show us what he was made off, and when he did there was no disappointment. The second half if the season saw him become a dominant force in the Bath pack. Having already captained Wasps and now England stands him in strong stead for the captaincy, and with a omission (not sure why) from the England set up Webber has a lot more availability to concentrate on Bath.

The point of international absentees for Louw and Attwood have been raised as issues for their potential role as captain, and for Attwood the question of is he ready to hold the leaders job.
There is the possibility of an international call up for Webber should he continue in his current form and an injury for the current hooker's in the England set up.

My personal choice for the job is with Webber, Louw is for many but I just feel Webber edges him.
No matter who your choice is it's refreshing for Gary Gold to have such a wide choice.

We now have to wait to see if Gold has the same opinion as you and slots in the remaining piece of the jigsaw.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Have Tiger's dared to disrespect the RFU??

Everybody knows that Richard Cockerill is a passionate man in regards to Leicester Tigers, so passionate he has the odd tendency to overstep the mark. 

Passion is a good thing and shows commitment to the club and sport, crossing the line can be a detrimental choice.

To use abusive language directed at any official in rugby is a definite no-no and goes against the fundamental ruling of upholding respect in rugby.

Cockerill has fallen foul of this on more than one occasion. On this occasion his outburst was viewed by a vast array of rugby fans worldwide in the Aviva premiership final, not the best advertisement for English rugby and leading the RFU to take action.

Cockerill was hit with a nine week touchline ban after being found guilty of using obscene, inappropriate and/or unprofessional language and behaviour towards fourth official Stuart Terheege in a reaction to a tackle on Toby Flood. 

Tigers found this punishment to be harsh and opted to make an appeal against the judgement. The appeal hearing failed to agree with Cockerill and Leicester Tigers and up held the ban, although took the decision to amend the fixtures involved in the suspension. The suspension now begins on the 24th of August and runs until the 18th of October, including two pre-season fixtures against Jersey and Ulster and ends with a Heineken Cup tie with Treviso.

24 Aug - Jersey (away) 31 Aug - Ulster (home) 8 Sep - Worcester (home) 14 Sep - Bath (away) 21 Sep - Newcastle (home) 29 Sep - Exeter (away) 5 Oct - Northampton (home) 11 Oct - Ulster (away) 18 Oct - Treviso (home)

With the offence taking place in the Aviva premiership final would it not be more apt for the punishment to be served in that competition? Including friendly fixtures is a reduction in its self. 

I have no issue with the length of suspension just the rearrangement to appear as if they're still being vigilant but in reality easing the pressure on Cockerill and Tigers. This re-timing of Cockerill's ban still isn't to Tigers liking and have released this statement-

"We are pleased that the judgement vindicated our decision to appeal and we are grateful to the panel for the consideration that they showed, although we await with interest the written judgement to see why the pre-season game against Montpellier falls into a different category than those against Jersey and Ulster.

"We remain disappointed with the RFU's conduct in this matter but, as we have previously stated, this is a matter we shall pursue privately.

"The focus now is on the remainder of our pre-season and our preparations for the start of the new season."

To release a statement stating that you are 'disappointed' with the RFU's conduct is not only showing a lack of respect for the RFU but also condoning Cockerill's behaviour. It would of been more appropriate if they had stipulated they were disappointed with Cockerill's conduct, not the governing body who are still trying to install respect in rugby!       

I have raised the point before in regards to keeping respect going in rugby the game it's self is growing ever popular and more and more children are taking up rugby, is Cockerill's behaviour and Tigers open disregard of the RFU what we want the future players to believe is now acceptable? Do we also want the rest of the rugbying world to look at Cockerill and Tigers and believe this is the way English rugby is going? 

To support your director of rugby is a very admirable and appropriate thing for any club to do, but to publicly hit out at the RFU for actually easing Tigers pain by moving the suspension to include non-competitive fixtures shows very poor form. Although I truly now believe the scrutiny that will now be heaped upon Tigers and Cockerill will be very intense, from the RFU, fans and media will all be paying a very close attention but will it make any difference?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Here comes the Henson affect!

The signing of Gavin Henson was met by many of the fans with great trepidation!! A lose canon with a history of losing sight if why he's famous..........he's a rugby player!!!

For many people the major issue with Henson is his ego arrives five minutes before he does. Another problem I have with him is the factor he's an extremely naturally gifted rugby player, his belief of self worth appears to overshadow that.

When I heard Henson had signed I hoped and believed that what Nick Blofeld told us'I think Gavin is much more settled and mature person than that image we have in our heads.' I thought let's give him a chance and let his rugby do the talking.

All of Henson's history with drunken incidents will always be a concern, and once again it's raised its head. A night out with new fellow team mates she Henson ending it being knocked out by Carl Fearns, possibly not the best start he could of hoped for with the controversial move to Bath. Apparently waltzing around as if he owned the Pig and Fiddle in Bath aggravated his fellow team mates and they try to calm him down, unfortunately it appears Henson wasn't in the mood for listening and subsequently Fearns took the action to release a telling blow for Henson. 
As it would be wrong to condone Carl Fearns actions, and I expect him to be punished accordingly, the main concern is Henson's attitude on the evening and what did he say to Fearns for him to react in such a manner? It's not pretty viewing and does no favours for Henson, Fearns or the club. 

Bath have had their fair share of incidents that have put them in the news for all the wrong reasons. Matt Stevens was handed a two year ban for testing positive for cocaine in 2009,this was followed shortly by a huge drug scandal resulting in 5 players leaving the club. Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins receiving a nine-month ban after being found guilty of failing to submit to drugs tests on two separate occasions. Former wallabies player Justin Harrison also received an eight month ban after admitting to drug use and stating 'everyone's doing it'. All of this came to light after an end of season night out in London finished with an altercation with a group of Quins players, who also were celebrating the end of season in the same pub, it resulted in Harrison being knocked out and taken to hospital. Bad press is not what Bath want and they have been managing to appear to be cleaning the club up. 

As a supporter looking in there seems to be a good sense of unity between the players, a group of players who all seem have a good bond with each other. To use the #BathFamily at times seems very appropriate, they look like a solid unit and that helps build a team and will transpire onto the pitch. 

So this raises the point - how would a primadonna fit in with the team? It appears not very well. As it is very early into preseason and already Henson's behaviour has aggravated his team mates this doesn't bode we'll for the following season. It appears that Henson has a few lessons to be learnt on how to conduct yourself in public, and Fearns demonstrated what will happen if you misbehave in Bath, it's about respect if Henson wants support in Bath he needs to earn that! 

With a talented player but continuously shrouded in controversy and already demonstrating its going to be a bumpy ride, can the fans get behind him a support him on the pitch or is it now just a call for Bath to cut him lose before he's even played in Blue Black and White, can he be controlled or will bad publicity continue to follow. As Henson is such a well known player anything he's now involved in that goes slightly amiss there is going to be huge publicity and is that good for the clubs reputation? 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Bring on September!!

Now that the Lions have successfully defeated the Australians and we've revelled in their victorious tour it's moving on to that time of year, the time where we get to embrace our beloved club rugby. The time where we get to parade around in our teams colours, turn ourselves into a knowledgeable pundit and fill our hearts with expectations of a successful season.

Things are now slotting into place for the next season at Bath, could we be looking at a much improved run out for the boys in Blue, Black and White? We had a promise of a "new beginning" last season, with a new collective of coaching staff. The success wasn't quite up to the expectations, but a first seasons tenure with somebody else's squad is never going to be easy.

There was some moments of brilliance from the squad and a few woeful displays. The true display of a "new beginning" comes with the second season, time to acquire new players and allow players to move on as they may not fit the desired plan.

So Gary Gold has done just that, and with his shopping list in hand appears to of made some exciting purchases. With his acquisitions it's easy to see the future is where he is directing the squad and using a few mature players to help guide the youthful members, aiding their already rising skills to help become an accomplished solid team. With a squad now designed on Gary Gold's ideas and visions of where the club should be going as supporters we need to fully support the Team and believe the clubs expectations are the same as ours.

A  list of 10 players have announced over the last few months who have been drafted in, some we knew long before their announcements and some a little surprising. Rumours and speculation flew around last season linking everyman and his dog to Bath. As the squad and the new batch of players all join up slowly together for pre-season excitement and anticipation is drifting in to see how the reformed team can perform this season.


Matt Garvey- @MattGarvey5
Coming along the M4 from London Irish comes an interesting utility forward, being able to cover the  second and back row is an unusual ability for a forward. For the last couple of seasons at the exiles  have seen him raise his profile and become a quality player, using Gary Gold's words to describe the 25 year old "He is a big unit and can do the rough stuff, but he can also offer a real threat in attack." On the fringe of the Saxons a promising player and a good call for Bath. 

Leroy Houston- @leroyhouston8
An Australian number 8 that has impressed Gold for some time. Houston arrives at the Rec following a two year stint at French club Colomiers. "Leroy is a guy I have admired for a long time and we are delighted to have secured him. He's very dangerous with ball in hand and loves to hit hard in defence."
At 26 he's already experienced glory while picking up the super 15 title with the Queensland Reds in 2011, let's hope he can replicate that with Bath and becomes a key player within the squad.

David Sisi- @DavidSisi
Joining his fellow ex-exile team mate Matt Garvey in the forwards comes an exciting prospect for Bath. Being 6'4" and 120kg the back-rower Sisi at only 20 is what is known as a big lad! A truly natural player and a huge rising talent, with his displays for London Irish last season and a phenomenal showing for the England u20's in the junior world cup, where they returned as champions it's plain to see why Bath were keen to sign him.

Juan Pablo Orlandi- @Jpiolandi
Joining Bath from Racing Metro 92 Orlandi becomes the third Argentine to join Bath in the last year, joining his fellow countrymen winger Horacio Agulla and hooker Eusebio Guiñazú  forming a strong Puma contingent at Bath. 
As the Argentine's are renowned for their scrummaging prowess the 30 year old tight head prop lives up to that billing. Another powerhouse in the front row will help add an extra dimension to an already formidable front row.


George Ford- @George_Fordy
Picked to a future fly half for England a future prospect that helps build greater expectations for the club. 
Joining his father at Bath, who is now promoted to head coach, Ford is expected to make big steps at the club.
At the ripe old age of 20 he already has an impressive list of statistics.
Including 14 appearances for England U18s and 11 for England U20s then handed a promotion to the England Saxons squad. Not only wad he the youngest player to make his debut at professional club level, making 33 first team appearances for Tigers amassing a total of 220, but in 2011 he became not only the youngest but first English player to receive the IRB junior player of the year. 
Micky Young-
Another ex-Tiger joining Ford in the path to Bath is 24 Micky Young. As with Ford well decorated in caps for England, up through the age ranges all that's missing is an EPS cap to add to his tally. Moved to Tigers in 2011 from Falcons after 79 caps within 3 seasons, under used at Tigers hopefully we will get to see his best at the Rec, and after seeing him play at Twickenham and scoring the winning try in the IRB Sevens in 2008/09 against New Zealand I know there's a lot to come from this nippy little scrum half.

Anthony Watson- @anthonywatson_
The third of the of the London Irish quartet to join Bath Watson is a 19 year old fullback who with  footwork and pace may rival Kyle Eastmond in the excitement stakes, anybody lucky enough to see him run out for the England U20s would of seen what he has to offer. With the likes of the truly unpredictable running Bendy to work with as a potential mentor he appears to be another shrewd signing for the future by Gold.

Jonathan Joseph- @JonathanJoseph0
The final member of the quartet of new recruits from London Irish is Joseph, possibly one of the most exciting centres in the premiership. Enjoyed a good tour of Argentina in the summer with England, seeing him pair up with Kyle Eastmond and proved what we'd been hoping, Bath are looking at having one if the most electric centre pairings with the potential to destroy many defensive lines. With good support around them I believe we are going to see many a try in the 2013/2014 season.

Martin Roberts-@martin_Roberts9
Sneaking in quietly us the treble cap winning welsh Roberts. He has donned the Welsh red jersey un every capacity be it school, junior, elite and sevens. Adding to the scrum half collective of Stringer and young fast ball seems to be the target for next season's game plan, but with Roberts we may see him taking it on alone to make that extra yardage and stretch the oppositions defence.

Gavin Henson- no twitter account but @UnrealGavHenson
The final purchase is Roberts fellow Welshman and possibly the most scrutinised purchase for Bath, the player known more for off the pitch activities as those on the pitch. Love him or hate him the pure fact is he is a naturally talented player and still has plenty to offer the game. Henson a utility back will be able to fill in a selection of positions from fly half, centre or full back, a very useful asset to have around when international duties call. His 33 caps for Wales and his experience will help aid the younger members if the squad, a quality kicker which could assist Heathcote and Ford and potentially be the difference between a win or a loss, which has been an issue at the Rec over recent seasons.

New recruits in place and meeting up with the rest of the squad learning to gel as a team, the next step was to learn who Bath will be facing in the new campaign. 
With a starting fixture against newly promoted Falcons at Kingston Park, no easy fixture as newly promoted teams come out with all guns blazing and want to make a mark showing their worth top flight rugby. 
The next two fixtures will be a large test for Bath. Tigers at the Rec and the Tigers potentially hurting from Richard Cockerill's ban, the possibility is there for Bath to be able to grab some points from them. Sarries up next at the Allianz Park will be a huge task and may be a gauge where Bath are in comparison to the big boys.
A added bonus this season is the fact that six out of Bath's first fixtures will be televised, obviously only a bonus if your lucky enough to have BT Sport.

6/9/13 19:45      Newcastle Falcons           Away

14/9/13 15:15    Leicester Tigers               Home

22/9/13 14:00.   Saracens                         Away

28/9/13 15:00.   London Irish                    Home

4/10/13 19:45.   Sale Sharks                    Away

25/10/13 19:45  Gloucester Rugby.          Home

1/11/13 19:45.   Worcester Warriors         Away

23/11/13 15:00  London Wasps                Away

30/11/13 15:00  Exeter Chiefs                  Home

21/12/13 15:00. Harlequins                      Home

28/12/13 15:00 Northampton Saints        Away

4/1/14 15:00     LeicesterTigers               Away

8/2/14 15:00.    Newcastle Falcons         Home

15/2/14 15:00   Exeter Chiefs                 Away

22/2/14 15:00   London Wasps               Home

28/2/14 20:00    Saracens                       Home

22/3/14 15:00   London  Irish                  Away

29/3/14 15:00   Sale Sharks                    Home

12/4/14 15:00   Gloucester Rugby          Away

19/4/14 15:00   Worcester Warriors        Home

3/5/14 15:00     Northampton Saints       Home

10/5/14 15:00   Harlequins.                     Away

The only thing still missing from the complete jigsaw puzzle is the new kit, we know there will be a new one but as of yet no news. As Puma have pulled out of rugby it was announced that Bath will have a whole new kit. In the normal trend from Bath there's a deathly silence in regards to this, no manufacture or even a hint of design. My own preference and I know that many agree, we need a return to the classic hoops!

Bring on September and lets get the Blue, Black and White ball rolling and hope for a successful season!  

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Horwill and Cockerill's day of destiny

Why is Monday the first of July so important in the rugby world judicial system? Answer we could be looking at two very important decisions to me made, both with potential to show big statements and both will be picked to pieces by many a journalist and supporters with their own verdicts.

The two cases in hand is the James Horwill retrial over the stamp on Alun Wyn Jones and Leicester Tigers coach Richard Cockerill's hearing as he is alleged to have used obscene, inappropriate and/or unprofessional language and behaviour towards fourth official Stuart Terheege.

Much has been debated, dissected and chewed over in regards to James Horwill. There was a huge disbelief that Horwill escaped any sanctions, some believed it was deserved and some felt it would harsh if he was punished. Regardless of your views on the incident it went unpunished, although it did cause a huge furore in the rugbying world. With such a high profile series and Australian captain being seemed to 'get off likely' by an Australian panel the IRB decided to review the process. The IRB's decision was met with a sense of trepidation as to some it showed little faith in their own disciplinary process, but their decision to hold it after the second test raised even more questions. One question in particular is
"if they are that concerned with the result of the first hearing why allow him to play in the second?"
By allowing Horwill to play in the second test was going to be a controversial issue, being the captain the on field decisions will be made by him and if Australia win his presence could of aided that victory. This is exactly what happened, Horwill opting to take a scrum rather than a kick at goal resulting in several phases of pressure from Australia and leading to Adam Ashley Cooper's try. The try that gave them the lead and ultimately victory. 
If the IRB decide to administer a ban to Horwill it will be seen to make even more of a mockery of their systems and the whole farcical situation will become much more than a player being seen to stamp on another players head, but more to the point what could the IRB done to avoid this and will they put a full review on their whole judicial process? 
Regardless of the outcome now it's more how can the IRB save face and try to make good some poor handling of the issue, for me it will take a miracle as there is no way of leaving this red faced.

Love him or hate him the controversial figure of Richard Cockerill will also be up in front of a judicial panel for an alleged outburst at a fourth official at the Aviva premiership final back in May. His outburst came after a late tackle by Courtney Lawes flattening  Toby Flood was only deemed as a penalty, this riled Cockerill greatly and went to the fourth official to vent his anger.
The same fixture saw Dylan Hartley swear at referee Wayne Barnes earning himself a red card and a 11 week ban that excluded him from the Lions tour.                                                               

We are all aware of Cockerill's out spoken manner and at times pushes the boundaries to extremes.

Cockerill's response at the end of the match: "I am allowed to talk to officials about what is happening on the field. I will talk to whoever I want. I said to the fourth official that the Lawes tackle should have been referred to the TMO, as has been the case all season. It was foul play with the sanction of a yellow card or potentially more."

Cockerill had a warning from the RFU earlier in the season after criticising the way referee Andrew Small was dealing with the scrum during their victory over Gloucester at Welford Road.

Another indiscretion came in 2009, where he was delivered a four-week touchline ban, meaning he could have no contact with his team on match days, for verbally abusing referee Tim Wigglesworth during an LV Cup match with Newport Gwent Dragons.

With such a history of disrespect for match officials will the RFU administer a fitting punishment? A player is heavily sanctioned for such behaviour so should a director of rugby be treated in the same manner.........answer Surely should be yes. What message would it send out across rugby if you have one rule for one and yet different for others, it comes back to delivering consistency in rugby.

Although things don't seem to be quite so cut and dry, the delay in announcing the there had been a citing goes against the RFU's rules. According to the RFU’s own regulations, dated August 2012 'any citing should be with the RFU head of discipline within 24 hours of the conclusion of the match'. A ruling designed deliberately to stop the RFU reacting to any media speculation, yet on its occasion it seems to have been over ruled.

Cockerill’s charge was announced on Monday the 3rd of June, a time scale of 9 DAYS after the event. So with the RFU Head of Discipline supposed receive this from the citing officer before 5pm on Sunday May 26 why announcement or any knowledge of the citing until Monday 3 rd of June? 

Which ever way these two hearings go there is a huge potential for controversy and endless discussions of if each, lets just hope the IRB and RFU handle both with a true level of caution and suitable sanctions are taken.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Continuity in citings?

Rugby is a sport which prides itself on respect and fair play, a sport that promotes equality. Be you tall, short, skinny or mildly rotund the game has a role for you. A physical game played by what many refer to as "real men"!
Physicality that sometimes boils over into foul play, now with so much media coverage and the TMO system more infringements are being picked up on leading to more punishments and bans being distributed. For some they believe it's bringing a sterilisation to the game and potentially losing the edge that make the game, playing on the cusp brings more entertainment. For which I disagree, I believe that player safety is imperative and that it's still physical especially now it's a fully established professional sport.

We are now fully accepting of TMO and leading to a citings committee being pulled into action, but are we accepting if their decisions?

So many citings have been called into question, are they suitable and appropriate to fit the crime. My thoughts are these panels just don't appear to be hitting the fact missing it like a Kurtley Beale kick (couldn't resist).

For anyone who has viewed the footage of James Horwill's stamp on Alun-Wyn Jones' head it seemed conclusive evidence that there was a sign of intent. So as rugby fans and the rugbying media discussed what punishment Horwill would receive nobody expected the actual outcome from the hearing. The news was announced that a not guilty decision had been made. The panel headed by Nigel Hampton QC came to the decision which took nearly four hours to make released this statement-

"After hearing all the evidence I could not find that, when James Horwill's right foot came into glancing contact with Alun-Wyn Jones' face, that he was acting recklessly,"

"I found that I could not reject as being implausible or improbable Horwill's explanation that, as he was driving forward with his right leg raised, he was spun off balance through the impact of Lions players entering the ruck from the opposite side,"

"In an endeavour to regain his balance, Horwill brought his right leg to the ground unknowing that Alun-Wyn Jones' head was in that area, due to having his sight impeded by the presence of Michael Hooper and Tom Croft who were beneath him and over the top of Alun-Wyn Jones.

"Due to these reasons, I cannot uphold the citing."

A verdict that I for one cannot understand, how after four hours this was the conclusion. So how can the Australian captain escape what seemed to be such damming evidence of a stamp that left the Welshman requiring stitches? But then we beg the question on how can some of the incidents we see go to these citing committees not quite go the way many believe they should go. 

A fixture of the magnitude that the first test between Australia and the Lions is should a citings be dealt with in a different manner? The sport is a global game and these games are some of the biggest in the game, would handing it to a independent IRB panel with a representatives from many nations dispel views of biased outcomes?

Consistency seems to be a a major issue within the citing committees, there have been many results that have raised many an eyebrow. We've seen let offs and huge reductions in lengths of bans. 
Rugby shows the world that it will not take any infringements likely, they do not dwell on things and deal with the matter within days, whereas football will take months. But is this the correct way, is rushing leading to poor decisions.

Following the first test the Lions had their last mid week fixture against the Melbourne Rebels and once again another citing, this time for Lachlan Mitchell. Mitchell was cited for a dangerous tackle on Simon Zebo and subsequently was summonsed before the same panel as Horwill. Many deemed the tackle an innocuous one and with no intent or malice but Nigel Hampton QC and the panel saw things differently. Mitchell was handed a one match ban, the normal suspension for this offence is A four match ban but reductions have been made.

“I found that the incident was clearly at the lowest level for this offence,” said judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC, in a statement released by the Australian Rugby Union.
“The penalty associated for the lower level breach of Law 10.4 (j) is a suspension of four matches.
“Because of the circumstances and Lachlan Mitchell’s good on-field record, I have determined that the maximum reduction to the sentence of 50% should be applied.
“Further to this, I found that an additional discount to the suspension should be made as I believe a two-match penalty would be disproportionate to the level and type of offence that has occurred.
“As such, I have delivered a sanction of a one-match suspension, which will be fulfilled following the Rebels’ next Super Rugby fixture on July 12.” .

So from four match to a one week ban for a tackle many didn't even deem worth a ban?

One of the most contentious errors in judgements came from the 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand. The world saw one of the most cynical tackles to take a player out of the game and the tour. With seconds on the clock Umaga and Mealamu took it upon their selves to simultaneously spear tackle on the then Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll, leaving him with a dislocated shoulder and his tour ended. What followed was much worse, for such a heinous crime neither received any sanctions and went unpunished.

On most counts the citings are caught early and dealt with although it's the reductions that mildly baffle me, it's also now becoming a running joke amongst fans. One of the favourite phrases that will be used is "exemplary behavior" there is also further reduction for a guilty plea. The jokes now come to the extent of a player attending a hearing may take a nice cake or further reductions for having a 'nice' tie on! With such mockery and a full lack of respect being shown is it now not time the IRB gave a full reassessment of the citings process?

A prime example of ludicrous reductions comes in the form of Andrew Hore, originally was hit with the top end punishment for the cowardly crime of striking Bradley Davis from behind, who was totally unaware of what was going on. The ban was then handed out with a three week deduction due to his- acceptance of guilt, genuine remorse, exemplary discipline record and his conduct during the hearing. Hore also had a daily contact with Davis while he was in hospital.

The judicial official said "The act of foul play was inherently dangerous, being a deliberately swinging of the delivered with significant force, causing serious injury to victim who was unsighted." "the player had not intended to make contact with the players head". But when you weigh up the fact that there is six inches difference in height between the two players so begs the question "why was his hand near his head if there was no intention to strike him?"

A five match ban reduced from eight is one thing, then take into account three of those fixtures were pre-season games. Weighing up that it looks to of been a very lenient punishment. Ian Foster (New Zealand assistant coach), Hore and his legal representative stated the pre-season significances and meaningful consequences for the player in accordance with IRB regulation 17.

sadly this wasn't a first for Hore who has previous form for foul play, so should a sterner more apt punishment been implemented?

When Dylan Hartley opted to use foul language directed to the match official he broke the fundamental rule of respecting the referee. By doing so he had to face to consequences and feel the wrath of the citing committee and face the ultimate price. A punishment to any British or Irish player that would be considered as the ultimate punishment, a ban that sees him miss the length of the Lions tour. Hartley obviously isn't amiss to crossing the line and has plenty of previous form in indiscipline. If you weigh up his punishment in regards to others it seems a little unbalanced, an 11 week ban for verbal abuse as opposed to no punishment for stamping on somebody's head? Respect is beyond important in rugby but do we really believe verbal is worse than physical abuse? Yes rugby is a contact sport and the we all accept the physical side, for many that's the draw, but deliberate has no place and should be punishable in relevance to verbal infringements.

Such poor decisions is almost making a mockery if the sport we know and love, it truly isn't giving a good representation and positive message to the world.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Keep respect in rugby alive!

A subject so many of us are talking about is respect in rugby! Respect has always been the one thing that has been so great about the game be it silence when a player is taking a kick, clapping the opposing team onto the park and calling the Ref 'sir' but as recent these traditions are being lost.

The sad news was released that another rugby player has cancelled his twitter account due to abuse just heightens the sad turn that the respect is being lost. Freddie Michalak has been subject to a stream of abuse from French fans to such an extent he made the decision to axe his account. With twitter we are lucky enough to be granted access and communicate with their sporting hero's, and lets be fair the rugby guys are possibly some of the most accessible. Hearing of a player who opens himself up for the supporters feeling it necessary to remove his account because of such abuse is a sad day for the sport.
Unfortunately this isn't the first time we've heard of such a case most notably on a few occasions we've lost Brian Moore to the power of the Trolls, luckily he has returned to twitter and we can enjoy his outspoken views. Love him or hate him Brian Moore is a very knowledgeable man and is very technically aware of the game. The thing I struggle with on line abuse or being a troll as it known is how does it solve things or even serve any purpose, abuse is is just negative and will never encourage somebody to do better its jus detrimental to them. If its about putting somebody down to make themselves feel better as in the case of most cases of bullying, they should remember these guys are professional sports people and they opt to sit in front of a screen telling them what they've done wrong? If these trolls were so good they would be on a pitch teaching the likes of Michelak how it's done, this is not the case so why do it?
A few of the referees grace the pages of twitter as well which is brave especially with the criticism they are rapidly coming under. We all criticise when we believe them to be incorrect in their decision making but to go on line to berate and abuse their officiating can again only be seen as detrimental. A referee is out there to make decisions on the spot and are continually under pressure to officiate correctly, abusing them will only shake their confidence and make them question their calls leading to more mistakes adding to the vicious circle.

As rugby fans while we all sit at home or at a ground watching and supporting our respective teams we all believe we are some of the most knowledgeable pundits around, yes we may have a slight dig at a player who isn't in your eyes doing well, but to publicly and personally attack a player just isn't the rugby way. There is a fine line between criticism and abuse but majority of people are able to distinguish between the two and right and wrong.

There are many negatives about twitter but also many positives! Two pages that have become such a good link between supporters of rugby and encouraging the banter between fans from opposing teams are #RugbyUnited and #RugbyFamily. Banter in rugby goes hand in hand with the game and is the difference between rugby and football, rugby banter is meant in jest and never with any malice, which is why there is no segregation in rugby supporters. When Trevor Large and friends introduced us to the #RugbyUnited concept supporters embraced it and the whole #RugbyUnited brand grew into a phenomenon. Then we had the #RugbyFamily came along with a similar idea but also aiding the grass roots of rugby to come up to the forefront. Both are a brilliant idea and to help unite fans in a general appreciation of the game must be saluted and celebrated.

Growing up watching the game of rugby many I learnt one thing stood out in the game one word.......respect! A sport where guys would smash into each other, hitting hard tackles and with the occasional handbags moment, yet when the referee spoke these hardened rugby players stood like naughty school boys addressed him as 'sir' and listened to his every word. His word was never questioned and you certainly didn't argue with him, to do so would see your team penalised being marched back ten metres.
A sport where you applauded the opposing team onto the pitch regardless if they were your fiercest rivals, you appreciated the skill and ability of every team. To be able to perform in such a sport must be given true admiration, an ability majority of could never even come close to obtaining.
The biggest sign of respect was silence during a player taking a kick at goal, followed by applause if successful as you would applaud if a try was scored. A boo or a jeer was not the done thing and heavily frowned upon, in fact you would be the person who was jeered at for showing such disdain and lack of respect.
Sadly in this day and age of the professional game these forms of respect are being lost and the win, win, win mentality is taking hold, with the amount of money now involved it is inevitable that this one day would happen but the hope it remains is still there as well as the passion and love of the game.

As I am aware to continue the idealistic ethos of respect in rugby many of us hope and dream it will remain, a progression that will continue and we'll never eradicate the boo boys the trolls we can still try to halt. Trolls are a cowardly embarrassment to the game of rugby and there should be no place for them in the game!

Lets try to keep hold for as long as possible to that great rugby respect and help stop the abuse, celebrate the game and salute the players, coaches and officials for reaching the top of their game!