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.