Bath Rugby look to have secured the services of flanker Sam Underhill from Ospreys from next season for a fee of about £150,000.
Sam Underhill joined the Swansea based province from Gloucester for two years ago so as to continue his education in Cardiff.
This move ruled out any selection for the England squad due to the selection policy put in place by the RFU to deter the best English players moving to France for a more lucrative paycheque.
Underhill has been in sensational form for the Ospreys and has been tipped for greatness by Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy.
The move to Bath would be hugely beneficial to Eddie Jones as that would give him the option of selecting a genuine, classic openside flanker. He would offer the back row some balance that is lacking with the combination of Chris Robshaw and James Haskell.
With Sam Underhill set to join Bath he will be playing in an environment that is already full of young, talented players. He would also be learning off someone of Francois Louw’s ability which can only be a benefit.
Underhill’s move to Bath could see the flanker playing for England as soon as the summer should his form continue. It is hard to see him not building on his already very impressive form.
The sky is the limit for Underhill hopefully he can achieve that while playing for Bath Rugby.
Director of Rugby/ Head Coach: Todd Blackadder and Tabai Matson
Captain: Guy Mercer
Stadium: The Recreation Ground (Capacity: 13,500)
Last Season: 9th
Bath had an awful season last time out only managing to finish 9th in the Premiership a poor return having made the final in the 2014/15 season.
There is a sizeable number of international stars at the Recreation Ground and the squad looks strong if not that deep. The only worry for Bath is the hole left by the departures of Kyle Eastmond and Ollie Devoto in the midfield leaving Dan Bowden and Jonathan Joseph as the only senior centres in the squad.
The Recreation Ground has become accustomed to an attacking gameplan executed with fluency and pace as we saw the season before last. A devastating three quarters is lethal when given space. The whole operation kick started and led by fly-half, George Ford.
One of the only positives from last season came in defence, despite finishing in 9th Bath was among the best defences in the Premiership when it came to conceding tries. Whilst Bath leaked penalties for the most part teams found it hard to break Bath down.
THREE TO WATCH
Position: Fly-Half Nationality: English Age: 23 Height: 1.75m Weight: 84kg
The Bath out half is a real talent and he suffered last year low on confidence and bereft of inspiration the backline faltered. Then in Australia he showed us the player he really is with a pack going forward and with none of the focus on his kicking he flourished.
Ford is the best attacking fly-half in the league without a shadow of a doubt. There were question marks over his defence but the doubters have now been silenced after a string of important defensive display notably the first test in Australia.
Position: Centre Nationality: English Age: 25 Height: 1.83m Weight: 91kg
Another of Bath’s England contingent. The outside centre has treated us to some moments of sheer brilliance. His dazzling footwork and trademark outside arc make him one of the most devastating strike runners for Bath.
What tends to go unnoticed is his defensive work rate, he doesn’t shy away from the less glamorous jobs. He will be key for Bath this season.
This man is amongst the best opensides in the world as he shows time and again for the Springboks. His southern hemisphere mindset of how the breakdown should be controlled is perfect to provide Bath’s backs quick ball.
Louw is bound to get his plaudits again this season and when he returns after the November internationals it will feel like a completely different team.
Luke Charteris (Racing 92, FRA)
Harry Davies (Cardiff Blues, WAL)
Taulupe Faletau (Dragons, WAL)
Kahn Fotouali’i (Northampton Saints, ENG)
Elliott Stooke (Gloucester Rugby, ENG)
Michael van Vuuren (Leicester Tigers, ENG)
Jack Walker (Yorkshire Carnegie, ENG)
Horacio Agulla (Castres Olympique, FRA)
Luke Arscott (Bristol Rugby, ENG)
Dominic Day (Toyota Verblitz, JAP)
Ollie Devoto (Exeter Chiefs, ENG)
Kyle Eastmond (Wasps, ENG)
Jonathan Evans (Llaneli Scarlets, WAL)
Alafoti Fa’osiliva (Worcester Warriors, ENG)
Brett Herron (Ulster, IRE)
Stuart Hooper (Retired, RET)
Leroy Houston (Queensland Reds, AUS)
Amanaki Mafi (NTT Shining Arcs, JAP)
Max Northcote-Green (London Irish, ENG)
Will Spencer (Worcester Warriors, ENG)
Rob Webber (Sale Sharks, ENG)
Tom Woolstencroft (Wasps, ENG)
The capture of Wales duo Faletau and Charteris is a huge coup for Bath further bolstering Bath’s impressive back five of the pack. Samoan international Fotouali’i is a good addition, he has serious pace and can act as another playmaker.
The loss of Devoto is huge, he along with Eastmond leave a void for Bath to fill. Losing Houston to Super Rugby is also a shame, the fan favourite was an effective carrier. Hooper ends his career, he will remain at Bath in a coaching capacity.
My Bath Rugby 23
15 Anthony Watson 14 Semesa Rokoduguni 13 Jonathan Joseph 12 Dan Bowden 11 Matt Banahan 10 George Ford 9 Kahn Fotouali’i
1 Nick Auterac 2 Ross Batty 3 Davey Wilson 4 Luke Charteris 5 Dave Attwood 6 David Denton 7 Francois Louw (Captain) 8 Taulupe Faletau
16 Michael van Vuuren 17 Nathan Catt 18 Henry Thomas 19 Charlie Ewels 20 Matt Garvey 21 Chris Cook 22 Rhys Priestland 23 Jeff Williams
Bath definitely have the quality of player and coach needed to succeed at Premiership level but this looks as a season for building and establishing goals for the coming seasons.
Bath Rugby recently saw the departure of inside centre Kyle Eastmond as he moved north to the Ricoh Arena. This leaves Bath rather light in the centre department as Ollie Devoto has also moved on.
The question the coaches now face is who will play at 12? There are a number of options, Kiwi, Dan Bowden is able to play 12 and he offers George Ford (if he is still here come September) that second playmaker the England fly-half is used to.
There is also England under-20’s star Max Clark. Clark is a talented young player and his physical presence coupled with a surprising turn of pace make him a scintillating prospect for Bath and England fans alike.
Another option which is viable is that of shifting Priestland to 12, again it offers Bath two playmakers in the backline which was a hallmark of Bath’s play in the successful 2014/15 season.
All of these options are open and offer slight variations on each other but all come with their pitfalls. Bath have very few outright centres as we approach the season’s beginning and the question remains will the coaches have time to draft in a new recruit to fill the void left by Eastmond and Devoto.
The final option is Matt Banahan. The 6’7” winger is a powerful carrier and he’s among the fastest in the Bath squad.
He is one of Bath’s longest serving players and at 12 would offer a crash ball option that as a Premiership club you clearly need to get your backline moving forwards. Banahan’s crashing runs would in turn open space for the really quick men outside him, when those players include Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson, Jeff Williams, Semesa Rokoduguni and Tom Homer, that is a quite beautiful vision for Bath fans.
The giant wing is not just this brute either if he sees a gap he has the pace to exploit spaces left by careless defending, okay his step is not as electric as Eastmond and his tactical awareness not as precise as Devoto but he has the attributes of a Premiership standard 12 and a good one at that.
It looks as though Bath’s long summer is beginning to come together with coach announcements expected within the week. The club must accept that this season will be one of rebuilding and then we can look to what the future may hold.
Mike Ford has finally been dismissed, the former England defence coach has been sacked following a season which has seen Bath go from sensational, attacking play advocates to being underachieving, lacklustre and frankly useless.
As well as this off field incidents have marred this season for Mike Ford with even rumours that he had lost the dressing room.
Bath need a new coach and they seem to be talking to South African Johan van Graan a major part of the South Africa coaching set up which reached the World Cup semi-finals under Heyneke Meyer another man that Bruce Craig is believed to be in negotiations with.
Van Graan was already being looked at by Bath prior to the dismissal of Ford after the capture of Neal Hatley by England, the South African seemed like a good fit to take over the role at the Recreation Ground as Hatley departed for Australia.
Van Graan is believed to be on the verge of signing a deal which if rumours are to be believed could offer him a much larger role than was first assumed as he could now become interim head coach which would suggest the man Bath want is still performing duties elsewhere.
This could allude to Todd Blackadder believed to be among the frontrunners for the job, Blackadder is still with the Crusaders and will remain with the Christchurch franchise until the end of the Super Rugby season.
Bath Rugby will be hoping deals can be done swiftly so that this interruption to what looks to be a summer of rebuilding is not to be blown ever further off course.