Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Could Bath end up like a wounded Gazelle ready for lions to pounce.

It's the ultimate honour to be picked for your country. Traditionally every player strives to pull on their nation's colours, run out and represent their country with pride and passion, in sport it's the ultimate accolade.

Bath have had some cracking performances this season against Tiger's and Sarries, some shaky games with a spirited come back and then Glasgow Warriors (less said about that the better). In their latest outing they may of lost to Toulouse, Bath never stopped fighting despite injury issues, the 16th man of the Rec definitely playing it's part.
Amongst the indifferent games Bath have had there has been some scintillating rugby played and a handful of players are reaping their rewards for it. Bath are seeing a season where promising talent is finally living up to their potential, and rightly getting to sport the Red Rose of England.

It has been a long time since Bath could boast such a wealth of international players in their squad.
Rob Webber
Davey Wilson
Dave Attwood
George Ford
Kyle Eastmond
Jonathan Joseph
Samesa Rokoduguni

Making the first draft into the England camp, with an additional selection made on Sunday including another two Bath players-
Anthony Watson
Henry Thomas

Adding that to Agulla (Argentina) and James (Wales) who are also on international duties Bath lose 11 players during the Autumn internationals.

Bath's. November fixtures
01 Nov - 15:00 London Welsh (H)
08 Nov - 16:30 Exeter (A)
15 Nov - 17:00 Newcastle (H)
22 Nov - 15:00 London Irish (A)
28 Nov - 19:45 Harlequins (H)

It is great for the players and for the club to gain such recognition in which they are to be truly commended for it, but it does leave a sizable gap in the Bath Ranks.
Bath are already missing Fearns, Garvey, Louw and Fa'osiliva due to injury and Houston on a suspension Bath certainly have a very depleted squad.
Hopefully for Bath their depth in squad will be able to fill some voids, but a tough few weeks could be ahead for the boys in Blue, Black and White. 

In fairness Bath and other teams have capitalised on other sides such as Northampton, Saracens, Tigers and Harlequins who in the past have been hammered with international duties. Now it's Bath's turn lets see how they handle the pressure.
Fan's will always hope to see their nation win over all else, but always have a second eye on their chosen club. The Autumn internationals can be a major disruption to some teams as it runs along side the normal rugby season, potentially it can be damaging to their campaign but players playing against some of the biggest teams in the world will certainly aid their development.
It will be hard for Bath but it's a hurdle they have to overcome and time for the other players to stand up and be counted, as has been shown by the young and talented Charlie Ewels.
With injuries in the back row the second row teenager stepped up and earned his first starting debut against Toulouse, off the back of his performance is now tipped to captain Bath against London Welsh in the LV=Cup this weekend.
With such depth in the squad Bath could scrape though unscathed during the international period, but it will be a true test of the club! 

Pictures courtesy of @onsideimages http://onsideimages.photoshelter.com

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Bath's backline bucking the trend

As a bit of a traditionalist I've always loved the way that rugby has been a sport for players of all sizes and ability.
You had the big bulky guys as props, the little hard nuts as the hooker, the big fearless back rowers, tall lofty second rows and Terrier like nippy scrum halves. Whereas your backs were the less physical but had pace and ability to run and avoid tackles with their jinking feet, stick the guys who can run like a whippet on the wing and the guy who can get a good hard tackle but still packing a bit of pace in at full back.

Obviously with most sports there comes evolution, rugby is possibly the biggest example of this since turning professional. Rugby is their job, therefore they need to be the best they can. Fitness, strength and skills now are imperative, these guys are now machines.

One man who turned rugby on its head and potentially the most evolutionary player in rugby was the "man mountain" Jonah Lomu. A 19st 6'5" tank that can move like faecal matter off of shovel. Suddenly everyone looked up and noticed that the big guys weren't just forwards but can serve a purpose in the backs, eventually leading to the "crash ball" backs.

Bath this season appear to be going against the trend a little (until the arrival of Burgess, whenever that will be) with much success. Almost a return to old school rugby.
Predominantly a back line of Cook/Stringer, Ford, Eastmond, Joseph, Rokoduguni, Woodburn/Watson and Henson/Arscott we've seen a return to some scintillating running rugby from Bath.

There has been a few cameos from Banahan, and as much as I rate him as a ball carrier, he's possibly been the least effective of Bath's Backs. Would Burgess realistically bring much more dynamism to Bath's backs? possibly not, would he make an effective back row ball carrier? Definitely! For me I believe Mike Ford's original diagnosis for him to play on the flank or at no8 would make sense.

Many pundits and ex-player's have stated there isn't a better centre partnership in the Premiership this season than Eastmond and Joseph, their link up work is phenomenal. It's another dimension that Bath have brought back to rugby, teams have learnt how to tackle the "bash" boys in the backs and how to close them out of the game, the step and pace has become as issue to tie down.

Kyle Eastmond being awarded Aviva Premiership player and try of the month for September shows a player of that ability can have more impact in the game. Using the forwards as the impact players linking up with the backs is being performed well at Bath, it also helps having the standard of forwards they have. From 1-8 in the pack have good carrying skills and know how to pop a good offload.

The almost rugby league clatteresque style that is becoming more part of the game, so far this season has been overshadowed by "the step", slick hands, guile and tenacity! Long may it continue and we are spoilt with more free running expansive rugby.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Bath Rugby's campaign ready to set Sale

Bath start their Aviva Premiership campaign to the echoes of Enya's 1988 hit Orinoco flow "Sale away, Sale away, Sale away......"
Every time Bath take on Sale Sharks it's always an enjoyable fixture, sadly only for the pun count not always for the results.

Sale are slowly becoming Bath's bogey team in the Premiership, with only one win in six over their last league meetings. Bath's win was a comprehensive 31-10 victory, but it was back in September 2012.
A win for Bath in the LV=Cup at the AJ Bell stadium is their most recent victory against Sale was last November, but it seems it's the Premiership that seems to be foxing Bath.

The two sides last match up was somewhat of a talking point. Sale running out victorious at the Rec by a solitary point. Danny Cipriani overshadowing his opposite number George Ford with a flawless kicking performance. Cipriani took all four chances at the posts scoring all of Sales points, whereas as Ford missed a penalty, a conversion after Ross Batty dabbed down but most importantly a drop goal attempt at the death of the game.

There was one moment that caused a vast amount of controversy that defined the game, raising more headlines than how hard and well both sides battled. The game will always be famed for the "great Scrum fiasco". A passage of play that took 15 minutes to complete just one scrum, where Bath earned Seven penalties and Henry Thomas receiving a yellow card and finding himself having a 10 minute timeout. Despite all of the penalties, yellow card and the fact it was on Sale's 5m line referee Dean Richards refrained from awarding a penalty try in Bath's direction. The letter of the law states that to award a penalty try the scrum must be moving in the direction of the try line, whereas the scrum failed to move before Sale were deemed to collapse it. A very contentious part of the fixture and some might even say it possibly cost Bath the tie. Sale eventually managed to scramble the ball away and avoided conceding any points from the relentless pressure, harsh on Bath but very shrewd from Sale.

Leaving Sale last season Henry Thomas has now joined the ranks at Bath, back to the city where he received some of his education. With Bath's first Premiership fixture coming against his old club, he'll have a point to prove and if victorious Thomas will have some good bragging rights to boot.

It was very evident last season that the main focus of Bath was upon the rising talent of George Ford. Ford who is very much in contention for the England 10 shirt with Owen Farrell had a glittering debut season with Bath, but when it comes to the Sale fixture there is a little extra pride at steak. George and head coach and father Mike are hoping to start the season off with a win, but older brother Joe has other thoughts. Joe who is based at Sale Sharks is also hoping for some bragging rights, it will make interesting viewing if the siblings end up facing each other on the pitch both playing in the fly-half slot!

Both sides will be wanting to start the season off with a bang and forget the end of last season. Sale losing their last three games at home and Bath missing out on the top four on the last day of the season, the potential for this clash is great and could be a be a brilliant test for either side to see how their season will progress.

Pictures courtesy of @onsideimages http://onsideimages.photoshelter.com

Friday, 22 August 2014

Henson is letting the rugby do the talking!

A player who has had so many controversial on and off the field headlines written about him, many people doubted his move to Bath Rugby at the start of last season. Now he's completed his first season and played in Bath's first preseason fixture against Scarlets, has Gavin Henson proved the doubters wrong?

Love him or hate him, he is definitely rugby's equivalent to Marmite, there's no mistaking Gavin Henson is a very gifted and talented player. His career has been a very bumpy little affair, with so much off the field antics and publicity overshadowing his playing ability. Henson's international career was blighted by injury and so far cutting it short to 33 caps for Wales and one Lions cap, although that's not bad figures for an international there should of been so many more, some people may say the timing of injuries aided the slump in his behaviour and career?

His nine year stint at Swansea/Ospreys saw him deliver some glittering rugby, although his "pretty boy" image somewhat overshadowed what a huge talent he was. He suffered yet another injury and this time Henson took an 18 month sabbatical. During this time there was many rumours involving his career, retirement, changing codes to rugby league and also many stories involving his personal life, eventually it led to Ospreys releasing him from his contract. 
It wasn't long before he had signed for Saracens but could only start playing for them once his time was up on Strictly come dancing, an uncertain period followed!

Saracens- 4 caps- released from contract.

Toulon- 2 caps- released from contract due to fighting with team mates.

Cardiff Blues- 8 caps- released from contract due to drunken behaviour on an airplane.

London Welsh- 7 caps- left to join Bath after London Welsh's relegation.

His move to Bath was very well publicised and a lot of fans were uncertain it was a good move for the club, Bath have had some bad times with publicity over the years and could do without the Henson press train coming to Bath, other clubs and supporters even mocked his move to Bath.

The start to his career at Bath didn't exactly go to plan, as before he had even graced the field at the Rec he was all over the papers for all the wrong reason once again. A night out with his new team-mates ended up with him taking a little nap on the floor of the Pig and Fiddle in Bath after an altercation with Carl Fearns who delivered a little "love tap" to Henson. 

Since the incident he has buried his head and just got on with what he should be known for.....rugby! There has been a few shaky performances but there is with any player, he has also shown some glimpses of the player everyone knows he can be. He also received a call up to play in the possibles vs probable's game for Wales, fully deserved although I feel it was Warren Gatland using him a publicity tool.  Gatland knew due to Premiership rules that at that time he wouldn't be allowed to play in the game unless Bath released him for the fixture and incurred a hefty fine, Gatland's way of highlighting what players lose for not playing in Wales! 

The gamble to sign Henson has so far payed off, for him and for the club, and this coming season I truly feel we will see some stunning and solid performances from him. George Ford will be away for large parts of the season with England and Henson is the automatic choice to fill in at Fly Half. 

To answer the question- has Henson proved his doubters wrong? It's hopefully looking that way! 

Pictures courtesy of @onsideimages http://onsideimages.photoshelter.com

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Bath rugby nearly 150 and ready for a blockbuster

As legend has it the creation of rugby came at the hands of William Webb Ellis, who in 1823 is alleged to be the first man to catch a football and run with it giving us the birth of rugby. Webb Ellis' moment is steeped in a romantic mythological folklore and makes for a great story, although they say the game and it's rules were penned properly some 22 years later at Rugby school where the Webb Ellis' moment is said to of occurred. However the game came to originate they did a great job creating an adrenalin filled game in which we can only thank them for.

Roll on to 1865 and a group of cricketers from Lansdown cricket club wanted something to do during the winter months, of coarse rugby was the obvious choice and that was the birth of Bath Rugby. A bit of a nomadic team for a few years around Bath before finally leasing a piece of land at Pultney Meadows, later becoming the Recreation ground and the home of Bath Rugby. Almost 150 years later and Bath have become one of the most recognised and successful clubs in Britain. 


Bath have certainly had immense highs and their own fair share of lows, with their 150th anniversary next year how are Bath shaping up going into their Sesquicentennial year. Last season Bath showed they are fully on the journey back to the top, unfortunately being pipped to fourth spot in the Aviva Premiership by Harlequins. 
Despite losing out on the play offs Bath reached the Amlin Cup final, LV=Cup Semi Final and winning the Aviva 'A' league. These were very promising signs for Bath which has raised the hopes and expectations of all of the fans. As the new season rapidly approaches all of the jigsaw pieces are slotting into place to hopefully make Bath's 150th anniversary the "blockbuster season" it has been billed to be.

Stuart Hooper is going into his fourth term as club captain, supported by the players, who want to be led by him, a sense of unity is becoming apparent through the team. 
The strength of the squad is ever growing, with many internationals from EPS down to U20's the wealth of talent is helping Bath become the force they one were. Losing a few of the Blue, Black and White favourites at the end of last season, Bath haven't drafted in too many more players, although there has been some notable signings. Future, youth and talent seems to be Bath's new philosophy. Whereas some sides have brought in a fleet of players Bath have gone with 5- 3 front row forwards - Henry Thomas (Sale) Nick Auterac (Saracens) Grant Shiells (Newcastle). The reliable full back Luke Arscott (Exeter) and the heavily publicised and position yet to be decided Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs). Recalling Chris Cook from London Welsh after a great season with the exiles will help bolster the scrum half role.

A concern for many of the Bath Faithful is the fly half spot, having potentially one of the best 10's in the country with George Ford, there isn't another out and out 10 in the squad. Within the squad luckily there is many utility backs who could fill that void- Devotto, Eastmond, Arscott and of coarse Gavin Henson. Tom Heathcote departing for Edinburgh threw many questions about the 10 spot, the main one being how reliant will Bath be on Ford this season? A question only the coaches can answer. 

 What else is helping Bath Grow? The new sponsor in the form of globally recognised local company Dyson. Having such a well known company but also a local firm is a great marriage that Bath will thrive on. Sticking with the classic Blue,Black and White stripes (which made a favourable return last season) this season will see the Dyson logo on the chest and a little comment underneath- 110,000rpm, on a ball, digital slim, animal and hot + cool. 

The little promo video from Bath and Dyson was a little cheesy but displayed that there is good things to come from the unification. 

With relentless hurdles being thrown in the path of Bath regarding the much needed redevelopment of the Rec, finally some good news has been announced. Bath and North East Somerset council have now granted Bath permission for a temporary extension for two years, taking the capacity up to nearly 14,000. It may only be temporary but it could be seen a very positive step towards those planning designs so yearned after becoming a reality. There has been so many thorns in Bath's side with the Rec and talk of them leaving the historic site has been growing, hopefully this will be the first step to keeping them on the Rec and playing in the beautiful surroundings everyone knows and loves. 

 A blockbuster year for Bath's 150th anniversary........things are looking good.

2014/15 season tickets http://www.bathrugby.com/tickets/2014/15-season-tickets

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

World club 7's competition

The World Cup 7's returns!!!! Make sure you get involved.

Twelve of the best club rugby 7s teams from seven northern and southern hemisphere nations will battle it out at Twickenham on the weekend of 16th and 17th of August to be crowned the 2014 World Club 7s Champions.

Gloucester Rugby and Cardiff Blues will be joined by the Vodacom Blue Bulls, Auckland, NSW Waratahs, DHL Western Province, Buenos Aires, New York City 7s and Seattle as the teams competing for the title of rugby’s world club 7s champions.

Saturday will see 18 top quality 7s matches throughout the day; on Sunday the tournament reaches fever pitch as four trophies are decided.

Not only will there be a feast of top-class sevens action, but the tournament also promises the usual 7s carnival atmosphere, with a weekend of music and family entertainment, keeping fans amused between the dazzling on-pitch clashes.

I've got an opportunity to offer you one of two chances to win three tickets for you and your mates to enjoy either the Saturday or Sunday of the World Club 7s at Twickenham

To enter simply email the me the answer to the question below with your name, email address and phone number to bathbytes@gmail.com, also select if you would rather the tickets for the Saturday or Sunday. Competition ends on the 25th July at 5pm and I will ramdomly select the 2 winners........good luck! 

Q- who won the World Club 7's in 2013's completion? 

A) Glouscester 

B) Auckland

C) Cardiff Blues

D) Brumbies

E) Western Province 

There are tickets still available if you aren't either of the lucky winners, just visit Ticketmaster here http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/world-club-sevens-tournament-london-16-08-2014/event/35004C2D8AA513C9?artistid=1863317&majorcatid=10004&minorcatid=225

Monday, 14 July 2014

Are players now just commodities?

Rugby is a professional sport, as we all know but how much now is money starting to define the game? Rugby as a professional sport is also a business so as well as getting more people to watch and enjoy the sport it must also gain revenue. Concerns for this now money driven sport is that it is potentially putting players at risk and treating them more like a commodity.

Promotion from the Championship to the Aviva Premiership is a big step, to try and contend against established top flight teams is a very big task. Perform this task well and a run in the top flight may well continue. Exeter Chiefs have done a great job since joining the Premiership in the 2010/11 season, qualifying for the Heinekan cup and two season running and winning the LV=Cup last season.

Teams approach the promotion in very different manners and last seasons play off finalists certainly took different routes, both ways ultimately are very disrespectful to the batch of players who are doing the hard work and grafting to get their respective club into the premiership.

Bristol opted to buy big before securing the promotion, thus showing the players who still had to play the play offs that even if they do get to the Premiership their own position in the club looks incredibly insecure. In one day Bristol announced 10 signings throughout the day in a huge celebration of what the future had in store for the club, but could it encourage players to perform better to show their worth and show they are willing to fight for their squad position for the next campaign or discourage? 
Unfortunately for Bristol their promotion bid was unsuccessful and they still remain in the Championship, leaving them with a group of players who signed up for top flight rugby but suddenly left a league below. As the players signed prior to promotion they did have clauses in their contracts enabling them to go on loan next season but must return if Bristol again reach the play offs. Is this fair.....again no! The players remaining are basically being told you can help earn us play off status but then we'll bring out the big boys and your work here is done.

London Welsh chose a different way, but possibly a little more disrespectful in the long run. Welsh managed to pip Bristol in the promotion battle and making a return to the Premiership, then the recruitment began. It is understandable to bolster a team when you make the jump from leagues yet the Exiles have managed to go beyond the normal strengthening that others do.
London Welsh to date have acquired 23 players to start their Premiership campaign which basically equates to a whole match day squad, and moved out an impressive 16 (at my last count).
Bringing in a few big names to possible strengthen and improve a squad is in this day and age the norm, but for me this goes well beyond this and highlights now that players truly are just commodities and no longer the core of the club. Piri Weepu and Olly Barkley are two very good acquisitions to the club and will help Welsh to battle to remain in the top flight, but surely keeping the core of the squad around them will help the development of the team as a whole?

Playing as a unit is far more beneficial than playing as individuals, as the age old adage goes "there is no I in team", communication and understanding are a huge part of rugby, will they have this come the start of the season? A new squad trying to bond over a short pre-season period may lead to a bumpy start for London Welsh, and for the players who remain may not be happy with the direction the club has gone in their recruitment. I for one would be slightly miffed and aggrieved if I and my colleagues had helped gain the club promotion only to see the majority swept to one side deeming them not good enough to carry on in the Premiership.

 The fact that players are becoming less and less important to some clubs is becoming much more apparent, some clubs do still uphold the tradition but a lot now are happy to cut a player lose if they no longer serve a purpose. Shontayne Hape recently highlighted, in his interview on his concussion, exactly how brutal it can be in French rugby. 

"There was constant pressure from the coaches. Most coaches don't care about what happens later on in your life. It is about the here and now. Everyone wants success. They just think 'if we pay you this you are going to do this'.
Players are just pieces of meat. When the meat gets too old and past its use-by date, the club just buys some more. You get meat that's bruised or damaged, the club goes and buys some more."
This was a huge eye opener for many just to hear from a player what it is like to have that worry constantly on your shoulders and can lead to serious damage to your health. Playing while injured with fear of letting people know how serious it is in fear that the club may not want to wait for your recovery and replace you is a stark realisation what these guys put theirselves through. French rugby is rapidly becoming big business and totally money driven, players go there to earn the Euros, winning is essential when these clubs are throwing the money around. In short the business now controls the sport rather than the sport controlling the business. 

Week in week out players put their bodies on the line, showing a huge commitment to the club let's hope the clubs remember this and show the players the same respect and commitment.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Bath Trio to start first test in New Zealand

The tour of New Zealand hasn't exactly been the smoothest planned operation in English rugby, timing and injuries have caused issues with players availability to travel. With some of Lancaster's preferred players unable to make the first test it has left the door open to a few of the fringe players to step up and show their worth and throw their name in the hat for next years Rugby World Cup.

A Trio of Bath rugby players have grabbed the chance and been handed their chance to line up against the All Blacks in the first test. Rob Webber, Davey Wilson and Kyle Eastmond have all been given their chance to show the rest of the world what they do for Bath on the biggest stage available- in New Zealand against the number one team.

Kyle Eastmond has been missing in Baths colours for a few weeks, possibly due to injury or a mild ticking off for his apparent behaviour in the Amlin Cup semi final against Wasps. Regardless of his omission to the squad on the final run in to the end of the season he has landed his place in the starting line up. Bath fans are very aware of the his skills and ability to find a gap then exploit it, give him the ball and his feet move like he's the Michael Flatly of rugby. 
Earning his debut for England last year on the English tour of Argentina as a substitute, but it was his second cap where he announced himself on the international stage. England out to grasp their first test win in Argentina for 32 years handed Eastmond his first start and made sure he was remembered for his performance. England ran out as convincing victors, winning  26-51 and Eastmond scoring possibly the the try of the series, a couple of his renowned steps and he carved open their defence leaving him to race to to the line fighting off covering defenders.
Eastmond will be lining up beside Manu Tuilagi for the first test, potentially a great pairing, uniting the big bash boy of Tuilagi complimented by the pace and guile of Eastmond could help open up some big gaps that hopefully England will be able to capitalise on.

Injury has hampered Rob webber's career, teetering around the fringes of England hopefully it looks like he could be in for a stint in the England squad. Dylan Hartley considered as England's first choice hooker isn't available for the first test Webber will take the lead hooker role. Webber's main competitor for the 2nd place hooker behind Hartley is Tom Youngs, Youngs hasn't travelled to New Zealand due to personal reason giving Webber the opportunity to grab the bull by the horns and show his ability as one of England's top hooker's. Since the new scrummaging rules have been introduced and hookers have had to learn to be hookers again Webber has come into form whereas Tom Youngs seems to have had a dip. 
Webber received his debut for England in the Six Nations in 2012 bit tore a muscle in his shoulder, leaving him sidelined for 10 months. In his 10 month break he made the move from Wasps to Bath but had to wait until January to get back to the action and sport the Blue, Black and White of Bath, taking to it like a duck to water. The England tour to Argentina came at the same time as the Lions tour of Australia, taking Hartley and Youngs along with them. Webber nestled into the England squad and his great ball carrying skills saw him help England to the tour win and in the second test he grabbed his first international try for England. Again returning from a nasty looking injury he received nearing the end of the season he's again fit and raring to go just in time to face the All Blacks.

Nestling alongside Rob Webber in the front row for England is ' always the Bridesmaid never the Bride' Davey Wilson, who is ready to take his bouquet to the alter and take centre stage. Wilson always seeming to be the understudy to Dan Cole can give Stuart Lancaster something to think about for next years World Cup, Cole is out of action now until the autumn with a neck injury, this is Wilson's opportunity to  make a mark and potentially steal the job away from Cole.
Bath's pack this season has been one of the most domineering in the Aviva Premiership, led from the front by Webber and Wilson. Such a strong ball carrier we have been treated to some brilliant bullocking runs and even grabbing a few tries, a guy that size shouldn't be able to shift like that! Wilson is such a mobile prop but you don't seem to notice it, every breakdown you can guarantee he'll be there and making a big impact to the ruck or maul, a silent assassin on the pitch but an incredible technically able and aware player.
Only 10 of Wilson's caps have come as a stating role, backed up by his 24 appearances off of the bench. He is considered as one of the best tight head props in the Premiership and since joining Bath from Newcastle at the back end of the 2008/09 season he has just kept growing as a player, very rarely having an off day. 

One more member of the Bath squad has squeezed his 'petit' frame into the squad for the first test is second row Dave Attwood. Another member of Bath's solid pack this season who has bolstered the front five this season. Attwood a fan of the West Country starting in his home city of Bristol, then moving to Gloucester before making his way to Bath in 2011. 
Lineouts, scrums open play in fact anywhere on the pitch Attwood is a solid attribute to the Bath team, potentially one of their best players in the 2013/14 campaign. He isn't any new comer to the All Blacks as he gained his debut against them back in 2010 when he came on for Palmer in the 16-26 loss at Twickenham.
Attwood is competing for one of the most contested position in the England team, with the likes of Lawes, Parling and Launchbury to contend with he must make the most of any game time he gets. The Bath fans are very much aware of his ability and when he came on for England in the Six Nations we saw little flashes then, including a sweet little offload. 

It's going to be a tough series to try and win, it's certainly no mean feat to go to New Zealand and win in their back yard. There is a possibility of victory and as we know the All Blacks can be beaten! 

All pictures courtesy of  Onside Images http://www.onsideimages.com

Monday, 2 June 2014

Heathcote deserves to be first violinist not second fiddle

It's always refreshing when you get a bright young talented player come through the club you support, a player who you can see has an abundance of talent. Tom Heathcote has been one of those players.

Heathcote was nominated for the LV=cup breakthrough player last season for his outstanding performance in the first round against Newport & Gwent Dragons, with 2 try assists and hitting 8/8 kicks. Despite having many top performances for Bath he was left playing second fiddle to Bath's "World cup winning" fly half Stephen Donald, grabbing game time while Donald suffered injury. Whether it was pressure from above or the coaches selection Bath still stuck with Donald although the young contender kept putting ing better performances, this is something I doubt we'll ever properly know. With the announcement that Donald was heading east to Japan the hope was that Heathcote will get a fairer crack of the whip and get much more deserved first team game time.


Heathcote was born in Inverness making him eligible to follow an international career for Scotland as there is a wealth of talent fighting for the England 10 shirt. As Donald was announcing his departure Bath were announcing the poorly kept secret the George Ford was due to join the club for the 2013-2014 season. Bath were now going to be gifted with two potential world class fly halves, both very young with very bright future and the ability to develop with the club. Youth and potential ability has been Bath's agenda for their signings of resent, growing players and a team to become a great side that can return to the top for the foreseeable future, this was met by great hope and expectations by the supporters. 

As the 2013-2014 season progressed Heathcote was getting very few appearances for Bath and generally featuring in Bath's United team, where as usual he shined. During the Premiership season Heathcote only featured in four games and missed out on even getting on the bench. The coaching staff opting for Ford with Henson or Devoto as utility backs to fill the void if Ford was injured, even Kyle Eastmond was drawn in to the fly half role rather than Heathcote. So why was this talented potential Scottish fly half being omitted from the team sheet? Yet another question which will remain unanswered. 
In the run up to the Amlin Cup final news was filtering out that Ford would not be going on the England tour of New Zealand as he will require shoulder surgery after the final. With Ford carrying an injury into the game many expected to see Heathcote at least feature as a back up 10, yet again no sign on the team sheet. 

Saracens have Owen Farrell as their first choice fly half and Charlie Hodgson as their second, they believe in rotation and Hodgson still gets plenty of game time and still shows flashes of the top class 10 he was, basically they have faith in their players and use them accordingly. Saracens also have Bosch as a long distance kicker and if Farrell is off par on kicking (very rare) he can step up to the mark.
Bath have also have an abundance of players who are very talented with the boot- Henson, Devoto, Heathcote and Eastmond who was a kicker in league. Surprisingly even when Ford had an off day from the tee nobody else stepped up and took the duty on to ease the increasing pressure from a still very young Player. 

Speculative rumours began circulation earlier in the season that Heathcote was looking at Edinburgh and vice-versa, a very strong move to further his international career with Scotland. With the complete lack of first team appearances and continuous playing second fiddle it hasn't come as any surprise that the move has gone ahead, and really who can blame a player who has aspirations which are being hampered. 

One very concerning issue is Bath at the moment are left with only one specialised fly half and a few covering utility backs. This leaves the club on very tentative ground in regards to Ford, he is more than likely going to be spending extensive time away on international duties, there is also possibility of injury, this could leave Bath very high and dry. 
Will Bath draft in another fly half and if they do will they be happy to play the role that Heathcote has played over the last few seasons?

I'm sure many of the Bath faithful will agree with me in wishing Tom the best of luck for the future and look forward to seeing him fulfil his ambition and featuring for many years in the Scottish team! 


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Nick Abendanon, the past, present and the future!

So much has been said and so many tributes have been payed about Nick Abendanon recently, and they are all completely deserved. After nine years as a Bath player he has decided to up sticks and move across the channel to France and play for Clermont Auvergne.......but Does he have any regrets?

The Amlin Challenge Cup final will be Abendanon's final flurry in the Blue, Black and White of Bath and he wants to sign off in style!

Sat in a garden and basked in sunshine at Farliegh I managed to catch up with him and have a quick chat about the past, present and his future in France.



After nine years playing for Bath your career here is ending and you're moving on to Clermont , how hard a decision was that to make?

It was very hard, probably one of the hardest decisions I'm going to have to make in my rugby career. There's not too many hard decisions as players we have to make, the clubs been good to me, it's been my home for the last ten years, all of my family are based in the area so I'm very comfortable here and have a great life and I've played some of my best rugby here. It was tough, very tough, especially considering the team is doing really well and will continue to do well easily for the next four or five years so it's disappointing that I won't be a involved in that. But I'm going to one of the biggest clubs in Europe and it's a chance of something new, I've always wanted to play in France and there isn't many better clubs to go to than Clermont.

When you made the decision and signed for Clermont you weren't getting as much game time as Anthony Watson did that influence your decision to move?

I'd be lying if I said it didn't, it definitely had an influence on it. Anthony was playing some fantastic rugby at full back and they said they were looking to develop him. It was a decision I had to make there and then, carry on and fight for my place, which I know I would of always done or do I let the young players coming through have their time and leave on a high. I've had a great time at bath but felt they might of seen my time coming to an end so thought I'd try something new. 

You have always been on the cusp of the England team, injuries and selections have stopped you from gaining more caps. You have been in some of your best form this season but due to the RFU's stance on only players playing in England can play for England does that leave you frustrated?

Yes, yes it does! But at the same time I can't do anything about that, I hope they do change that especially in the World Cup year. If I'm playing fantastically well for Clermont  week in week out and there could be a few injuries, I hope then I could still get a call. I've stuck around in England for the last three or four seasons possibly waiting for someone to get injured, waiting for an opportunity to come but it just hasn't. When I made my decision England wasn't in the forefront of my mind it was more on the personal side of things. If I had to make the decision now having been playing so well towards the end of the year and the possibility of getting back in the England mix it would of been a lot harder choice to make.

You've featured in some big games over your time at Bath and quite a few derby matches, does the latest game against Gloucester rate as one of the hardest?

Without doubt! That's the hardest derby I've ever played in. There was everything in that game, aside from some decent rugby (laughs), But that's how derby games pan out, there's so much testosterone floating around and so much a question it's the team who fronts up the most who comes out on top. Probaly did help Gloucester only havin 13 men on the pitch with five minutes to go, so we could drive them over for the penalty try.
It's definitely going to stick in my mind as possibly one of the best derby games I played it while I was here.

You celebrated your 200th appearance against Sale in the big scrum fiasco game, a disappointing game all round as a spectacle and the loss, how frustrating was it for the players on the pitch?

I don't know the first thing about scrums so I can't comment on the forwards frustrations. I don't know if any of the were penalties or not, but from what I've seen in the past standing out at the back, after three or so scrums the ref is generally under the sticks awarding a penalty try. We had nine scrums on the line and the ref didn't budge, we don't know the reasoning behind it but we did feel harshly done by it. We still put ourselves in the position to win it and unfortunately Fordy's drop goal just slid wide. Pretty disappointing for that to be my 200th game but still really proud to have got to 200.

Friday will be your last game for Bath how are you going to deal with the emotions of the occasion?

You can't really let emotion get in the way of your game, otherwise when you start thinking with your emotions you start to do silly things, you've got to keep a clean head, a clear mind and play the same sort of rugby you've been playing the whole season, if that's the same way we've been playing all season then we can turn them over in the final.

You've had some great moments on the pitch for Bath, but what would you say have been your best and worst moments?

The worst has probably got to be a home game against Leicester, where both the Tuilagi's gave me a little bit of rough and tumble for the majority of the game, I felt like I'd been through about five car crashes after that game.
The best has to be the eleven game streak we went unbeaten with Claasens and James as the half backs. We hadn't won any games up until Christmas and then we just went on an amazing winning streak. Or the challenge cup final in 2008, just the big bit of silverware I've won.

You've scored the occasional special try, which would you say out of all of them in your opinion is you best?

It's actually came from this season to be honest, the try against Chiefs down at Sandy Park, I'm not quite sure how I did that one. I just managed to get it down and that will definitely stick in my mind. 

The 16th man is always so important to the team, with the ticket allocation so small for the two clubs are  worried about the lack of atmosphere?

The difficult thing for the ERC is they don't know who is going to be in the final and they put the tickets on sale at the start of the year. It's difficult to predict, if they'd known it was going to be a Bath v Northampton final they would of probably put it in somewhere like Twickenham or the Millennium stadium, they would of been able to half fill or even fill both of them with the travelling supporters that both teams get. It's a little disappointing that the fans that have been there the whole year supporting us weren't able to get any tickets, but we know they'll be there watching us on the television and be there in spirit, we'll just have to do the best for them and win! 

A big thanks to Nick for taking the time to chat to me, hopefully he'll get the send off he deserves and Bath to win the Amlin cup. It would seem only fitting for a stalwart of the club to sign offin such style.
Although Nick I do agree with Flats the beard does need to go!! 
Good luck in France you'll be missed at Bath.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The eligibility of playing for your country

A debate that keeps rumbling on is English players playing abroad and their ability to be picked for England. Since 2011 England have adopted the stance that to qualify to play for England you need to play in England. There is an "exceptional circumstances' clause but the RFU have yet to use it.

The call for Steffon Armitage to be called up even though he plays in France, being classed as one of the best open side flankers in the game could this be an exceptional circumstance?
Before moving to Toulon Armitage was aware of the RFU's stance yet still took the big money move across the channel, in blunt terms he chose cash over country. 
Picking the strongest team available is what you would want from your national coach and just because Armitage is in France he is still an available English player, so should he and possibly the country be penalised for him accepting a great opportunity when it's presented to him? 
If Lancaster uses the "exceptional circumstances" call for Armitage would this then open the flood gates for other English players to take the chance of helping their retirement fund and taking a bigger pay check and reaping some €uros and still be allowed to represent England. 

The Top14 is loaded with big names after the teams have spent big, so it would be beneficial for players to play and learn from the players who are amongst the best in the world. Knowledge is a powerful thing to have and if you can take some of that from someone it will only improve you, so playing with the best can teach you so much. Allowing players from your country to feature in this league and still play for their respective country could also benefit the national team as well, bringing a wealth of knowledge into the squad and passing that down the line.
I see the concern of the RFU which is they would like to see England's best playing in the Premiership, protecting the league and ensuring the league still remains as exciting as it is. On the flip side of that with the "big boys" playing elsewhere we could see another batch of players coming through the ranks encouraging competition for the positions in the England shirt.
Or could it go down the route of Welsh rugby with a mass exodus and almost leaving the cupboard bare? .

There is an air of hypocrisy in all of this, as the RFU won't pick from English players playing abroad but will pick players from foreign climes who qualify on the 'eligibility' ruling to play for them.
It seems slightly hypocritical that a player who is born, raised and originally played in England won't be picked yet a player who has lived here for 3 or more years, played elsewhere (not internationally) but now lives here is ok to play for England?

Good examples of this hypocrisy are Hendre Fourie and one of the biggest stars in English rugby at the moment Manu Tuilagi. Both players faced deportation, Tuilagi coming to the UK at 13 on a holiday visa and Fourie on a working holiday visa.
Fourie came to the UK to train to be a teacher, he then worked through the ranks of visa's through the clubs he joined. He represented England eight times and he got to a tier 1 highly skilled work permit. Injury saw Fourie miss out on a 2011 England place and moved to Sale, unfortunately injury then forced him to retire just six months before he could gain citizenship. Due to not working as a professional rugby player, but wishing to follow up on his teaching, the UKBA informed him he had to return to SA. Amazingly an ex-English international wasn't allowed to stay in the UK, eventually his deportation was rebutted but he still returned to SA with his wife and British born son.
Tuilagi was slightly different, it wasn't until he was embarking on his professional career following in the footsteps of his brothers playing at Leicester Tigers they discovered he was still here on his holiday visa from six years before. Five out of his six brothers had all played for Samoa so they were allowed a working permit, as Manu wished to play for England his now adopted country he needed to get endorsement from the rugby governing body and the home office to be allowed to play here, the panel agreed but the home office denied him. Protest, pleas and petitions eventually saw the home office overturn the decision, and now a huge part of the English set up.

Looking at these scenarios the RFU's stance on players playing abroad seems a little baffling as they are happy to support players of other nations to become English players. The rugby world has bemoaned New Zealand for their apparent pillaging of the South Pacific Islands and in truth we are just as bad with countries like South Africa and Samoa being prime examples, yet there is this firm stance on players playing abroad.

I am all for wanting the strongest team eligible to play for your country, but I do feel using double standards to get that is wrong. Is forcing a player to choose between cash or country a fair thing to do?

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Grab on tight it's going to be a bumpy ride!


At 3.15 on the 10th of May the whistle will blow on the start of the final tense 80 minutes of premiership rugby. Everyone will be on the edge of their seat waiting for the fat lady to sing, but they'll have to wait through a full opera before she sings her final note.

This weekends fixtures are a form of heaven for number crunchers and stato's with so many if buts and maybes surrounding the play off positions, In fact the only team who is guaranteed to finish in their current position in the top 5 is Saracens. From 2nd place to 5th place there is 10 points separating the teams, Saints in second leading Tigers by 4 points looks the safest place to retain. 


The main event his weekend is, what is being billed as the 'winner takes all' fixture between Harelequins and Bath Rugby at the Twickenham Stoop. A sell out crowd will pack the Stoop in anticipation of wanting and hoping their team will win and grab the final play off spot. 
Bath have occupied a top four position all season but a loss to Quins on Saturday will see them lose out. 
Quins last ditch bonus point win against Chiefs in round 21 is what helped set up this galactic battle and increase the pressure on Bath. Tom Guest scoring their bonus point try with five minutes to go, with Chiefs leading throughout the game it was a great fight back from Quins. The Chiefs vs Quins could be very reminiscent of Quins season, chasing all season then pipping the win at the last minute. 
Baths draw with Saints also helped to squeeze the teams together, a win would of more than certainly had Bath secure 4th, the two games could of almost been scripted to take it down to the wire in the last fixture. 
The game has become a must win for both sides as there is no other possible outcome from the game, whoever wins is in the play offs. The potential was there even if Bath lost but got a losing bonus point and try scoring bonus they could sneak the 4th place, but it comes down to games won so Quins would leapfrog Bath. With the points the same and Bath's points difference being better, the 2 draws for Bath could undo their top 4 finish. Quins being the home team the advantage definitely is in their favour, although Bath have yet to lose an away premiership game in 2014 and only 2 all season.
There is also one more scenario which would also be a miraculous one if it happened, here goes Bath score 4 tries, lose by less than 7=2 bonus points then Quins win but don't score 4 tries, winning with kicks and only taking 4 points from the game, Bath would finish on 68 and Quins on 67. What a finale to the end of season! 


There are also other movers and shakers that can happen within the top five, it's not all about the Quins vs Bath game. 
Tigers against Saracens could throw out a change of positions, obviously Sarries are safe up at the top of the tree, but Leicester have the chance to go above Saints or drop below Bath. For Tigers to raise above Northampton they must get a try bonus win against Sarries and hope that Saints lose to Wasps and take nothing from it. On the flip side of the game if Tigers do lose they need to make sure they get something from the game in the way of Bonus points, because Bath being 3 points behind there is a possibility Bath could jump above and grab the 3rd spot. 
- Bath 5 points win & Tigers lose with no points = Bath 71 Tigers 69
- Bath 5 points win & Tigers lose with LB point =  Bath 71 Tigers 70
- Bath 4 points win & Tigers lose with LB point =  Bath 70 Tigers 70 and with the teams drawn on points it would be again done on matches won in which that would see Bath take the 3rd spot. So many potential twists and turns there is still so much to play for! 

With only one guaranteed team knowing when/if they are playing in the semi-final, so much hinges on one round of rugby. Will we be looking at the same positions at the end of Saturday or will it be all change? It going to be a bumpy ride and if you're of a nervous disposition brace yourself, strap yourself in and enjoy the ride! 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

TMO~ Is it detrimental to the Ref?

The match officials are becoming more and more prominent in the game, wth a growing amount of controversy surrounding them and scrutiny on their performances. So are they having poorer games officiating or are there other contributing factors? 

Old school rugby always had the code of "respect the referee" and "his word is final", slowly I feel this ethos is being lost in the modern game. The amateur and professional era's are always so heavily compared, but many of those values that were installed fans and players are no longer being honoured. 
- As teams come onto the pitch it was always the done thing to cheer for your team and applaud the opposing side, you never boo them on.
- when a kicker in lined up for a penalty you are silent, again you do not boo, you show them respect and again clap regardless when the kick is successful showing appreciation of a well taken kick. 
- everyone listens to the referee and accepts his decision, he is only human and can not see everything, once again you do not boo. 
I'm aware that this is the Idealistic way of looking at the game and with the professionalism of the sport and money involved intensity has been be increased. A referees decision could cost a game, a cup match, a play off position, a trophy and most important for clubs potential revenue. 

Pressure is now laid heavily at the officials door, so rightly changes have been implemented to help and support them. The TMO should be a helpful tool to aid referees on important things they miss or their touch judges are unable to help them with. A referee can't see every angle on a possible try, a try that may win or lose a match, the TMO helps clarify the grounding thus the try may or may not be awarded.  The powers, ability and use of the TMO has been increased it's not just the initial "is it a try" being reviewed as before, now it means any decision can be referred upstairs. With every decision under such scrutiny some referees appear to be losing faith in their own ability to make a correct call and TMO referrals are become a far too frequent occurrence in the game, slowing up the game, adding to frustration of players, coaches and the fans. The relentless use of TMO has now become an incredibly frustrating part of the game and is taking the flow out of the game.

* Referrals can now go back to the previous restart, penalty, free-kick, lineout, scrum, kick-off.
* If it is not clear, the TMO is to advise there is no clear evidence and the referee will need to make a decision.
* TMO to advise on the type of infringement, the recommended sanction and where play is to restart.
* TMOs can be advised on infringements by the team that scored or touched down, as well as if a try has been prevented from being scored.
* If there is doubt as to whether the try would have been scored the TMO must then advise the appropriate sanction.
* If foul play is referred, the TMO is to make recommendations as to the appropriate sanctions, as an assistant referee can currently do.

An issue that has arisen from the TMO rules is they can track back to the last restart, from 1,2,3,4...... or an endless amount of phases, rather than just the last phase played. This could lead to what could seem an eternity waiting as the TMO review the possible infringement.
A referee can also question the TMO on possible dangerous tackle, if they feel foul play happened rather than leaving it for the citing committee, another delay in play may happen as it too will be reviewed. All of these delays are just encouraging frustrations amongst the players and supporters, sadly leading to supporters beginning to voice their angst in the form of boos and jeers. 
The intensified increase of the TMO and it's use is basically starting to hamper the age old "respect the ref" aspect of the game, and will it lead to the football view of haranguing of an official and to a certain extent verbal abuse?

With the way things are going could it end up going down the route of American football? A multitude of officials and a non free flowing game where a game that is an hour long game can go on for an excess of 2 hours. American football has seven officials in the game -These are the referee, umpire, head linesman, field judge, line judge, side judge, and back judge. This covers almost all angles of the game, they to have an option of video evidence where the referee goes pitch side to watch a screen and judges for himself rather than using yet another official. Do we want to see as many officials in the game of rugby, to ensure there are no calls missed?


There is one point in American football I do believe could be beneficial in rugby, the microphone on the referee where he can announce to the fans and everyone in the stadium what his ruling is. With all little tweet and changes to the rules in rugby being aware of every little detail is hard to do. When an official makes a call which seems obscure to the supporters they become restless, an explanation would benefit many, if everyone is aware of a call then pressure could be eased on the officials as some decisions can be difficult to understand, even some commentators are unaware of what is happening. 

An option is to change to a last phase TMO review on a try and possibility of a white card or signal for an offence if the referee or assistants aren't sure of a tackle or the perpetrator involved, rather than another TMO time out sending it to the citing committee. Super Rugby brought in the white card in 2012 but due to the increased TMO options the white card wasn't even used once in the 2013 season, an opportunity to have a more free flowing game lost. 

To TMO foul play with the potential of a yellow or even red card decision does mean that the opposing team does gain the advantage of the foul play, as opposed to other teams if the player then serves a ban. If a player deliberately causes an offence then it is surely acceptable for that player to be sin binned or sent off, giving the advantage to the side who has been perpetrated against. 

A fear of loss of respect for the ref is becoming more apparent and they are talked about as much as the teams theirselves, a review of the current TMO system is desperately needed. With such huge media attention on games now the hardest job on the pitch is getting harder, the man with the whistle is the most important man on the pitch. Referees need to be respected and allowed to control a game without controversy but with (T)oo (M)any (O)ptions this is damaging the respect and integrity of the referee.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Bath bid farewell to a trio of fans favourites

It's a sad day when a club bids fair well to one of the fans favourites but it's even worse when we have to say good bye and good luck to three! 
With the season drawing to the end the Northampton Saints game will be Bath's last home fixture of the current campaign and the last time we will have three great servants of the club wearing the famous Blue, Black and White colours of Bath. Nick Abendanon, Tom Biggs and Anthony Perenise will be signing off from the Rec before moving on to pastures new. 

Tom Biggs is coming to the end of four years with Bath after joining from Newcastle Falcons, a huge loss for Bath as he is on his way to Worcester Warriors.
Biggs began his rugby career at Leeds Tykes when he was discovered by, now England head coach, Stuart Lancaster who signed him up for their academy. While out on loan to Harrogate injury problems for Leeds earned him a call back to Tykes. Four tries in his full debut season and then finishing the season helping Leeds remain in the premiership and earning a Powergem cup winners medal, beating Bath in their first loss at Twickenham in a final.
Two more season at Leeds in which he was their top try scorer and earned himself a place in the England U21's team, although a torn ligament surgery on his shoulder hampered his Saxons call up before getting his first of four Saxons caps against Italy in 2008. In 2009 Biggs signed for Newcastle and after a season playing for the Falcons it was announced he was moving to Bath.
Within his first season for Bath he secured his place in the Bath fans hearts, his hat trick against Wasps in the St George's day match at Twickenham being part of his 11 tries in 25 games making him one of the highest try scorers in a season for Bath. His pace, guile and tenacity made him one of the most exciting wingers in the premiership and every time he has the ball in his hand there is an expectancy of him crossing the line. Biggs isn't all about the tries, he also is a player who can deliver a huge tackle, bearing in mind his size in comparison to some of the players he is never scared to make that big hit and encapsulates the phrase 'punching above his weight'.
The announcement that Biggs was changing codes and moving to Hull FC stunned the Bath faithful as such a huge talent within Union was leaving the game. Biggs moving to league this season has seen him disappear off of the Bath team sheet, with only a handful of first XV games and featuring in the Bath United team. Sadly for Tom his move to league has since fallen through and due to salary cap and signings for next season Bath are unable to offer him a contract which has seen him make the move to Warriors for next season. 

The rampaging Samoan tight head Prop Anthony Perenise joined Bath in 2011 from super rugby team the Hurricanes. His bullocking runs have been something to behold, he's a player who will  get over the gain line. Perenise had also played for the Highlanders before the Hurricanes and his Super Rugby experience shows, with the fast paced and powerful games in the Southern Hemisphere game it's enabled him to bring a little extra to the Premiership and Bath.
Perenise has certainly had his fair share of tries while at Bath, his latest the first in the Amlin Challenge Cup semi final victory against Wasps. The most memorable has to be his try in Baths 5 try haul against Northampton Saints in 2012's LV=Cup 46-14 Win, it's not very often you see a unit that size throwing out a goose step is something to behold. 
A very technically able scrummager with such power has seen him become a regular in Baths first team squad, if not starting a brilliant impact substitute to bring on. At 6ft and 18st 8lb he is also a very mobile prop with a huge turn of pace for a big man any team would welcome him into their side, which is what Bristol have done. Announced earlier this season that the seven time capped Samoan will be making the short journey to join the ever increasing list of players at Bristol, he is surely going to make a huge impact there as he has at Bath.

Another huge loss to the squad is Nick Abendanon who has been part of Bath for nine years, but is going to be making his way to Claremont next season. Seeming to be in the form of his life at the moment it's a shame he's leaving Bath and our shores to cross the channel to France, but recognition has been shown as he's signing for one of France's most prominent teams at the moment.
His dynamic runs, sometimes so dynamic perhaps he doesn't even know where his feet are taking him. Abendanon is one of those players with that extra little bit of trickery up his sleeve, with the ball in hand you just know you are about to see something special. 
Abendanon has an ability to find spaces where there doesn't to appear to be any, great awareness and has been not only good at going forward but pretty handy at pulling off a try saving tackle or two. 
Unfortunately for Bendy injuries haven't been on his side and quite often they have come at totally the wrong time, a player who definitely should have more international caps under his belt than he does. His reputation as a player who has been known to make some big errors has also hampered his progress, a reputation that if you see him play regularly you'll know is unjust, those days of being unpredictable are long since gone but an English call up has evaded him. 
Working his way from the Bath academy, playing over 200 games for the club and amassing a tally of 185 points, being such  a stalwart for the club his move has shocked and saddened a great deal of the Bath faithful. Abendanon's hopes are to sign off his Bath career with some silverware under his belt and with the Amlin Challenge cup and potential play off spots still to go, his hopes could still become reality.

All three players have proved theirselves at the club and for that reason is why they are so well received  at Bath and why so many fans will be sad to see them go. Players come and players go in the modern era of rugby but it's always a shame when three such talents move on, three great players who will be missed and I'm sure all supporters of Bath will thank them for the memories they've left and wish them good luck! 

Pictures courtesy of onside images http://www.onsideimages.com