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Published: Thu, 17 Aug 2017 13:03:52 +0100

Last Build Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2017 13:03:52 +0100

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Balancing Act: Pre Season Friendlies

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 14:22:39 +0100

Bath’s pre season friendlies will require a more than usually careful balancing act this month. In most years the coaches must trade off game time for all, development of key units and trial of new combinations, while attempting to build squad confidence and avoid untimely injury. This season, their preparations are complicated by the impact of summer tours, stalled recruitment and a lengthy injury list.   Todd Blackadder has described late July and August as “ crucial in our preparation”. He further suggested that a high calibre of opposition was deliberately selected to set the squad up well for one of the toughest Premiership starts for many years. The three opponents chosen will certainly be testing: first a traditional derby against a Bristol side smarting from relegation, followed by visits to Pro 12 Semi Finalists Ospreys and Leinster. Blackadder also sees ‘fine tuned match day preparation away from the Rec” as essential to the new AP campaign. He will want to avoid a repeat of last season when having laid the ghost of Franklin’s Gardens, a bogey venue for a decade and a half, in the opening round, his team then conspired to lose most of their away games, including to all the bottom four finishers.   The challenge therefore is a tough one on three fronts: correct past failings, manage present disruption and arrive in September fit and battle hardened for a baptism of fire. So- what should supporters expect from the next three weeks?



Bath's Summer Tourists

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 16:53:59 +0100

With all the recent speculation about new signings (or lack of them), it is easy to forget that a number of the Bath squad were in representative action a few weeks ago. While their colleagues have been sunning themselves on the beach, or on the physio table preparing for another attritional season, nine Bath Rugby players were on tour with various teams. Here’s how they did – and what their summer experience could mean for Bath in the coming season.  



Lions or Lambs?

Mon, 29 May 2017 09:07:37 +0100

The Lions have departed for New Zealand, eleven of them having played on Saturday. In the most demanding schedule yet, they play their first match next Saturday and a total of ten in just six weeks. Those games are three Tests, the Maori –often thought of as an “extra Test”, the five new Zealand Super rugby franchises and a “Barbarians” team selected from the provincial unions. To cope with that challenge Warren Gatland and his fellow coaches have opted to take 41 players, with an average of 43 caps each. An impressive group, but will they strut through New Zealand as Lions rampant, or are they doomed by fatigue and the schedule to be lambs to the slaughter? 



Premiership Playoffs

Tue, 16 May 2017 13:29:22 +0100

The playoffs are upon us and English rugby’s focus over the next two weeks will be on the scrap for the title. Once again, Bath sit this one out and watch from the side-lines. As in 2014, Bath came close to qualifying after a promising start to the season, and having beaten three of the four semi finalists, will be able to view the final two fixtures as a yardstick to aim for next season. For the fans, there is no other top class rugby until the Lions first fixture, so how do we expect the semi finalists to fare – and who do we hope will succeed?    



The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Season Review

Tue, 09 May 2017 08:34:42 +0100

So, Saturday’s fairy tale happy ending did not materialise. Tigers wrapped up a Playoff place at Sixways, while Bath failed to win at Sale, letting slip the slim chance to make the Top 4. What then, to make of Todd Blackadder’s first season? Beginning with hope, joy and expectation, it soon developed as many plot twists and improbable characters as a spaghetti western. For me, it was a case of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”.     



Closing Down Sale?

Tue, 02 May 2017 20:32:21 +0100

Bath will want to to close down Sale in Saturday’s final Premiership match at the AJ Bell Stadium. In particular they will be wary of the two former League players on the wings – Josh Charnley and Denny Solomona. Solomona’s try scoring exploits, ten in thirteen matches, had many pundits purring and backing him as a “bolter” for the Lions tour. He may be disappointed having to settle for the consolation prize of a place on England’s tour of Argentina. That is a more realistic selection, but his season has been a remarkable one, somewhat overshadowing teammate Charnley whose signing was also greeted with excitement and expectation at the beginning of the season. Traditionally a tough prospect at home in Salford, Sale have endured a mixed run of results since Christmas. The delight of victory against Wasps must be balanced by New Year’s Day defeat to Bristol and a hammering by Northampton Saints in early March. In all they have been beaten at home five times in the Premiership and on Saturday will hope to put those woes behind them, finishing on a high.



Double Gloucester?

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 10:34:09 +0100

Bath have a chance to do a Premiership double over old rivals Gloucester at the Rec this Sunday.  This derby fixture, usually a tense and fiery encounter, is given extra spice by respective league positions and comparative form. Gloucester have won 4 of their last 6 matches, picking up 12 precious league points against Bath’s paltry 4 in the same period. They have also forced their way to their third Challenge Cup Final, by stealing the first away win this season at La Rochelle. Bath, despite playing some highly entertaining rugby lost out to Stade Francais in the other Semi Final when composure deserted them in the final 4 minutes. So, Gloucester, with an outside chance of scrapping their way into the Premiership Top 6 seem in the ascendant, while Bath, having only recently slipped out of the Playoff places, look to be hanging on in hope. For all the sparkle of their attack when they get it right, Bath have been frail of late – both in defence and mentality. So – will the frustration of Paris give way to more disappointment and despair? Or do Bath have it in them to win in style as at Twickenham 3 weeks ago?



Moment Critique

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 13:43:50 +0100

Bath face a moment critique in Paris on Sunday. The European Challenge Cup seems their best chance of silverware this season and winning the tournament would offer an alternative route to Champions Cup rugby should disaster strike in the final two Premiership fixtures. The month of April began well for Bath, shaking off the malaise that had blighted the latter part of the season with bright victories over Brive in the ECCC Quarter Final and Leicester in the Twickenham “Clash”. Optimism was brought to an abrupt halt at Sixways by a quick witted and fired up Worcester last weekend, much to the chagrin of the Blue, Black and White faithful. Now, at the season’s denouement, and only three guaranteed fixtures left, it is essential Bath rediscover the brio with which they began the Brive match and ended against Leicester. Paris in the spring would seem the ideal setting and a semi final date at the Stade Jean Bouin the perfect stage to kick-start the final run in. Both sides are feted by their supporters for their panache and élan, so can Bath expect to leave Paris celebrating a tour de force – or as “Les Miserables”?



Wounded Warriors

Tue, 11 Apr 2017 11:14:07 +0100

Bath will face wounded warriors when they visit Sixways on Saturday. Worcester, after a poor start to the season, are now playing fluent, attacking rugby but will be frustrated by their last two results. The Warriors first eleven games yielded only a single win and two draws and they also handed basement side Bristol their first league win. Since the arrival of Gary Gold however, they have picked up three more victories and although a lowly eleventh in the table seem destined to survive. In their last three fixtures they have racked up fifteen tries, so their pride will be dented by losing to Sale by ten points last weekend and by seven to Wasps last month in a ten try spectacular at the Ricoh. Bath, by contrast, are on a mini roll having put five tries past Brive in the Challenge Cup Quarter Final and beaten Leicester Tigers with late comeback tries in the Twickenham “Clash”. Can Bath continue this vein of form for a strong finish to the season –or will Warriors puncture complacency with a well –prepared ambush?



Capital: Clash and Claws

Wed, 05 Apr 2017 09:15:04 +0100

Bath face Tigers in a “home” clash at Twickenham this Saturday. The switch of venue is not to some fans liking- cost is one objection, the other surrender of home advantage when hosting such bitter rivals. Tigers may have the better league record in recent seasons but the last 6 home AP games have all been won by Bath- initially close affairs, but latterly more convincing. While last season’s final day win merely blunted Tigers’ claws, the Rec matches the previous season saw two clean kills yielding fine trophy memories, the beast's skin metaphorically mounted on the wall and made into a fireside rug. Time was when an annual Twickenham trip was a Bath habit- a winning one. In a dozen golden years, ten RFU cups were won, three of them against Tigers. The last of those was two decades ago, which explains the angst about ceding real home advantage. Is the capital trip then just vanity, a fantasy of a Big Top environment to tame the tiger in?  Or will the big game bring the best out of the Blue, Black & White?



Déjà vu

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 20:37:41 +0100

Bath will feel a sense of déjà vu when they host Brive in the Challenge Cup on Saturday. The tie, with its famously dramatic connotations, may have a familiar feel, but which “already lived” moment will the fans experience? Will it be the nail-biting tension of 1998 in Bordeaux, the comfortable 6 try victory of the 2014 ECC Quarter Final or, heaven forbid, the lame capitulation of last weekend? Having lost their place in the Premiership top four, Bath may feel that European rugby is their best chance of silverware this season, but another showing like last Sunday, or even the defeat by Wasps a month ago will put an end to that ambition.  It would also be a further reminder of how far Bath must climb to match the glory of those past days. Memories can be charming and history at times inspiring, but it is the here and now which will concern the fans. For the players too, the most recent memory will be an embarrassment, to be erased.



Keep The Faith

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:19:48 +0000

Bath seek a miracle on Sunday but it will take more than faith to get it. Highflying Saracens lost their last encounter with Bath and will be desperate not to succumb again. Bath have struggled in the Premiership since that heady December day, losing 5 of 7 matches and fading to fourth in the table, 10 points adrift of Sunday’s hosts in 3rd. The self-belief and determination of the opening months of the season seems to have drained with the seemingly non-stop injury list and even 4th place is now under threat from improving rivals. Saracens, enjoying home advantage and welcoming back half their top pack from 6 Nations duty look set to heap more misery on the men in Blue, Black and White. Bath can claim their own returners of course, but will they be sufficient reinforcement to see off the threat? A meeting between these two clubs is as much a clash of faiths as when the original Saracens under Salah-ud-Din confronted the Crusader Christians. The Saracens credo has for years been a defensive one: percentage, pressure and pragmatism to wear opponents down then force penalties to build a score. Tries as often as not are scored as the result of that defence: the stifling “wolf-pack” approach forcing opposition error to exploit in counter attack. Bath by contrast have set out their stall on a more attacking “ball-in-hand” philosophy, a promise of faith made by Bruce Craig when seeking a new DOR last summer. The free flowing style is part of the Bath legend and, when it works is delightfully potent: bitter rivals Leicester and neighbours Gloucester among those on the receiving end of hammerings in recent years. However, in 2015 that all came unstuck in the Premiership Final – Saracens grit grinding down Bath’s flair. Should we expect the same this weekend?  



The final run ins

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 13:48:01 +0000

As we approach the final rounds, who is best placed to make the playoffs and secure Europe?



The Stinger

Tue, 28 Feb 2017 18:22:22 +0000

Bath face a stinger of a contest when they host Wasps this coming Saturday.  The League leaders, riding high with a 6 point advantage seem to have found form just when Bath are going through an uncertain patch.  Admittedly the men from the Ricoh have won only 3 of their 5 Premiership matches since Christmas, against Bath’s 2, but they have the edge in bonus points and tries scored. A total of 19 points and 21 tries show a team peaking at a difficult time in the season. In those matches they have been involved in some humdingers – taking 3 points from a 10 try draw with Exeter and even managing 2 bonus points in defeat to Sale.  They seem able to shrug off the loss of key players to international duty, while Bath –more afflicted by injury than national duties- are struggling to field a settled side. Todd Blackadder has refused to blame the absence of 20 players for Bath’s truly disappointing derby defeat at Bristol last Sunday.  “No excuses” he said “We actually prepared really well and it showed in the first 15, 20 minutes when we kept them under pressure and had a couple of try-scoring opportunities.” True, but Bath failed to take those early opportunities, just as in previous defeats to Exeter and Newcastle they had squandered clear leads. Psychologically Bath seem fragile, while Wasps, win or lose, are full of buzzing intent. The stage seems set for a stinging humiliation by the visitors –or does it?



Demolition Derby

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 08:08:41 +0000

Sunday’s Bristol- Bath Premiership clash threatens to be “Demolition Derby” day for Bristol – and perhaps even for Bath. Bristol, having won only two Premiership ties are six points adrift of fellow strugglers Worcester, with the tougher of two daunting run ins to come. While Worcester seem to be improving, one more heavy defeat could put Bristol’s hopes of league survival through the crusher. Conceding eight tries to Leicester is hardly ideal preparation for a derby meeting with old rivals eight places higher in the table.  For Bath, it is not so much aspiration as squad continuity which has been wrecked recently by yet more ill luck with injury. Just as the backrow resources were starting to look luxurious, the Rec outfit lost two hookers to fractures within forty eight hours and were forced to field a makeshift and callow backline by injuries to Tapuai, Fruean and Wilson. The game seems destined to be car crash viewing for somebody, but for whom?  



True Colours?

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 18:07:29 +0000

Chocolate, French Grey, Magenta, Lime Green, Sky Blue and Black. The colours of Harlequins Rugby Football Club. Or- as fabled Lions, England and Quins full back Bob Hiller used to quip: “Faded Chocolate, French Grey, Magenta, Lime Green, Sky Blue and Black are the true Harlequins colours”. He was referring to the club’s standing at the time, compared to past glories, but in recent seasons the “faded” tag has been prophetic at Six Nations time. Robbed of their “engines” in Easter, Robshaw, Care and Brown, Harlequins have often struggled during international periods. Last weekend though they showed no signs of fading, racking up forty - two points in a five try smashing of Bristol at Ashton Gate. Now placed sixth after a mixed start to the season, they may not so much be fading as hitting form at the right time.  



Enter The Saints

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 11:48:33 +0000

Bath entertain Northampton Saints when Premiership action resumes on Friday evening. For most of the past decade Saints have been a bogey team for Bath, both away and at home, so the chance to play them in the 6 Nations period would normally be seen as a leveller. This week though both teams find themselves much depleted – both by international calls and by injury. Bath’s roll call of the wounded includes Auterac, Thomas, Attwood, Garvey, Banahan, Fruean, Watson and Brew in addition to those required by England and Wales for the weekend’s internationals.  The Franklin’s faithful will point to their own absences. The 6 Nations claims half their pack with Hartley, Lawes, Harrison, Wood and Picamoles all on duty plus their most potent back George North. With Clark, Pisi and Burrell under treatment, they are missing nine internationals. With so many stars missing, will this match lack the intensity and quality that fans expect?



On The Toon

Tue, 31 Jan 2017 18:08:13 +0000

While most eyes will be on Murrayfield and Twickenham this Saturday, Bath will be “on the toon” on the Tyne.  The combined pool points of Bath and Falcons would not be enough to challenge any pool leaders, so the tie has no significance for the competition. For the protagonists, there are likely to be different aims and priorities. Flacons, comfortably above the danger zone and only a game’s league points outside the top six, may wish to hold some of their key men back for Premiership action the following week. Bath, by contrast, have already announced theirs will be strong selection – to gel combinations ahead of the Premiership ties with Saints and Harlequins. Both sides will be hoping to avoid injury while honing playing style and hopefully, seeking to entertain.



Cherrypicking

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 17:15:37 +0000

It will be cherry-picking time for Bath and Gloucester when they meet on Friday night. Gloucester will want to pick both their team and their targets carefully. Second in their pool, they stand a chance of success in the Anglo Welsh Cup, but must balance that tournament against the Premiership and Europe. Still in touch with the leading group, they could force a way into the Premiership Top 6 and top flight European rugby for next season. In the ECC, as seed number two, they have a home quarter final and realistic ambitions of silverware. They must now pick who to play and who to rest for the visit to the Rec. Bath’s hopes of AWC progress are theoretical only and selection options will be restricted by international squad calls. Their picks are likely to be with rest in mind, to preserve key players for more significant tasks – in the European Challenge Cup and Premiership. As well as squad players, Friday may see the inclusion of returners from injury. Some of these – such as David Denton - will want to put their hands up for international recognition, while others, perhaps Sisi, Wilson, Hastings or Clark will be looking at contract renewal. Adding some spice to the mix is the fact of a home tie in a derby with history. Third priority or no, the Rec faithful will want to see Bath gobble up the cherries and spit out the stones: so will many of the players.



Coup de Grace

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 10:39:56 +0000

Bath will be expected to deliver a coup de grace to Pau on Saturday. The club in the Pyreneean shadow has no hope of anything but pride from the fixture. They cannot even claim third place in the pool and have been bafflingly inconsistent in the tournament so far. Having begun brightly with a battling home defeat, they next failed to register even a single bonus point until taking Cardiff Blues to the wire last weekend. Tense tussles against the two leading teams have bracketed a limp capitulation in Cardiff and concession of 2 try bonuses to Bristol whom they gifted a total of 69 points. Their form is not just the usual French home and away disparity as Bristol beat them soundly at the Stade du Hameau. In the Top 14 they stand 11th, well clear of the relegation struggle but they do have an outside chance of finishing high enough to qualify for next season’s Champions Cup. Perhaps their laissez faire approach to some of their Challenge Cup ties shows the Top 14 to be their priority? Or- is it just some clichéd Gallic insouciance, and will they spring a surprise at the Rec on Saturday?