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.