Week One: Analysis and Round Up

HISTORY MADE AT THE GARDENS

Bath’s long wait to win at Franklins Gardens was ended on Saturday as the boys in blue, black and white triumphed 18-14, thanks to the boot of George Ford.

Powerful work from the front five in the scrum, led by Henry Thomas and the lineout, led by Dave Attwood deprived a powerful Northampton backline of front foot ball.

Carrying from David Denton and Dave Attwood also gave Bath momentum which George Ford converted into 18 unanswered points until Chris Cook received his marching order for not retreating ten metres.

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George Ford kicks one of four penalties against Northampton Saints.

Cook’s indiscipline was much to the delight of his opposite number Nic Groom who touched down twice on debut to earn Northampton a losing bonus point, Stephen Myler converting both of the kicks.

Kahn Fotouali’i was impressive all over the park with his physicality and game management. Equally Clark outside Ford added some much needed explosive power to the midfield.

The substitutes did not let up and Palma-Newport and Auterac continued the demolition of a shaky Northampton scrum. Tom Ellis also featured early on because of an injury to Faletau performed excellently in his recently adopted back row role.

PLAYER RATINGS

1 Nathan Catt (7) 2 Ross Batty (6) 3 Henry Thomas (8) 4 Charlie Ewels (6) 5 Dave Attwood (7) 6 Matt Garvey (6) 7 David Denton (7) 8 Taulupe Faletau (5)

9 Kahn Fotouali’i (8) 10 George Ford (9) 11 Matt Banahan (6) 12 Max Clark (7) 13 Jonathan Joseph (6) 14 Semesa Rokoduguni (7) 15 Tom Homer (6)

16 Tom Dunn (6) 17 Nick Auterac (7) 18 Kane Palma-Newport (7) 19 David Sisi (6) 20 Tom Ellis (7) 21 Chris Cook (4) 22 Rhys Priestland (6) 23 Jeff Williams (5)

BACK ROW HEADACHE

The injury to Faletau was compounded by Scotland international Denton also picking up an injury at Franklins Gardens. This means we could possibly see academy back rowers Levi Douglas or Zach Mercer feature this weekend.

The two injuries at Northampton will hurt that much more due to club captain Guy Mercer still nursing a strain picked up in training and with Springbok Francois Louw still away with the South Africa team playing in the Rugby Championship.

faletau
Faletau lasted just 12 minutes at Franklins Gardens.

Tom Ellis performed well when called upon after Faletau went off and Garvey and Sisi are more then capable back rowers, hopefully both Faletau and Denton will return to action soon.

ACADEMY PLAY PART IN WIN

No less than six academy players finished the win over Northampton ranging from Kane Palma-Newport in the front row to Max Clark in the centre.

It looks as though that number will be bolstered by a back row inclusion this weekend and also the prospect of Scotland under 20 star Adam Hastings and young scrum-half Will Homer who both impressed as they made their senior debuts last season.

NEW PLAYERS

Bath have signed Wales international Aled Brew until the end of the season. A smart move as Bath currently only have three senior wingers in the side, Matt Banahan, Semesa Rokoduguni and Jeff Williams.

Bath are also expected to announce the capture of two centres by the end of the week, one of them largely believed to be former Crusader, Robbie Fruean. The Kiwi looks likely to join up with his former coaches Tabai Matson and Todd Blackadder later this week.

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Robbie Fruean alongside Bath DoR, Todd Blackadder.

The other could be either Toulon centre Maxime Mermoz or this mystery Australian centre. Mermoz was a potential signing over the summer but interest cooled after he announced he wanted to stay with the French giants.

The mystery Australian has been a point of speculation for Bath fans, but three names come up time and time again, those are Berrick Barnes, Ben Tapuai and Anthony Fainga’a. Any of the three would represent some shrewd business from Bath’s new coaching duo, after the departure of Kyle Eastmond (Wasps) and Ollie Devoto (Exeter).

GOOD NEWS
Luke Charteris, Dan Bowden and Anthony Watson who all missed the Northampton game with minor injuries are expected to be available for selection against the Newcastle Falcons for Bath’s first home game of the season.

Charteris a big name move over the summer and he could partner either Dave Attwood or Charlie Ewels in a strong second row also bolstered by the arrival of former Gloucester lock, Elliot Stooke.

POTENTIAL 23

1 Nathan Catt 2 Ross Batty 3 Henry Thomas 4 Luke Charteris 5 Dave Attwood 6 Matt Garvey 7 Tom Ellis 8 David Sisi

9 Kahn Fotoauli’i 10 George Ford 11 Matt Banahan 12 Max Clark 13 Jonathan Joseph 14 Semesa Rokodugnuni 15 Tom Homer

16 Michael van Vuuren 17 Nick Auterac 18 Kane Palma-Newport 19 Charlie Ewels 20 Levi Douglas 21 Will Homer 22 Rhys Priestland 23 Anthony Watson

VERDICT

Bath Rugby by 7

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2016/17 Preview

Director of Rugby/ Head Coach: Todd Blackadder and Tabai Matson

Captain: Guy Mercer

Stadium: The Recreation Ground (Capacity: 13,500)

Last Season: 9th

Prediction: 5th

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.

BLACKADDER2
New DoR, Todd Blackadder.

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

George Ford

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.

Jonathan Joseph

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.

Francois Louw

Position: Flanker  Nationality: South African  Age: 31  Height: 1.90m  Weight: 114kg

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.

TRANSFERS 

IN (7)

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)

OUT (15)

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.

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New man, Taulupe Faletau.

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’s Chances

Bath Rugby is undergoing a major overhaul this summer with the new coaching team, new players and even a new stand.

After finishing ninth last season the fans will be demanding much more from their side this season.

Having swapped Mike Ford for Todd Blackadder and Tabai Matson Bath have brought in two experienced, clever coaches. Blackadder has spent years honing his craft at one of New Zealand’s most successful franchises the Crusaders and was joined by Matson just two years ago.

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Todd Blackadder takes over from Mike Ford.

The experience the former Crusaders duo will bring will be hugely beneficial, a southern hemisphere perspective will give Bath a new view on the game.

The West Country club have bolstered the pack this year bringing in Wales duo Luke Charteris and Taulupe Faletau, England under-20 hooker Jack Walker, former Leicester forward van Vuuren and promising lock Elliot Stooke.

In the backs Bath have brought in Samoan scrum-half Kahn Fotouali’i and 22 year old winger Harry Davies from Cardiff but it is widely expected a couple of other players will join the club now Blackadder and Matson have arrived in Bath.

The city expects and with the squad they have at their disposal Bath should be fighting for a top half finish this season. They could finish higher but with this season being one to rebuild and restart.

DEVOTO
Devoto has joined Exeter Chiefs.

A top half finish would reap the reward of a place in the Rugby Champions Cup which is Europe’s premier rugby competition.

With squads like Saracens, Leicester, Exeter and Wasps the top four is a very big ask.

Bath also will still have concerns about 12. The departures of Ollie Devoto and Kyle Eastmond to Exeter and Wasps respectively have left the resources at 12 rather empty.

Overall it is an intriguing time for Bath fans, patience may be needed and Bath fans should not be expecting miracles overnight. It will take time but should the coaches get Bath firing soon intrigue could become expectation.

Bath’s New Boys

Bath endured a challenging 2015/16 season but with that behind them and a fresh start ahead although Bath’s cards remain close to their chest with regards to appointing a coach a number of new faces have already been added to the Bath squad.

Jack Walker

Age: 20

Position: Hooker

Signed From: Yorkshire Carnegie

Honours: England U16, U17, U18, U19 and U20

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England Under 20’s captain alongside England prop Paul Hill.

The England under 20’s captain is a hugely promising hooker and could fill the void left by Rob Webber who has joined Sale Sharks. Walker is a very athletic hooker expect to see him make the odd burst upfield over the course of the season.

Michael van Vuuren

Age: 24

Position: Hooker

Signed From: Leicester Tigers

Honours: South Africa U20

Another addition to the front row brings valuable experience from Super Rugby as well as a short spell at Bath’s oldest rivals Leicester. The 24 year old will hope to become a big part of the team and try and push for a place alongside youngsters Walker and Dunn and the experienced Ross Batty.

Luke Charteris

Age: 33

Position: Lock

Signed From: Racing Metro 92

Honours: Wales U19, U21 and Wales

charteris.jpg
Charteris wins a lineout against England.

A hugely experienced lock who has been massively influential for Wales over the past 12 years since making his debut. The lock studied at the University of Bath before moving back to Wales to play professional rugby. He should be able to provide experience to replace that lost by retiring captain Stuart Hooper.

Elliott Stooke

Age: 22

Position: Lock

Signed From: Gloucester Rugby

Honours: England U20 and England Saxons

The young lock is another addition to the tight five for Bath. His loan spell at London Irish showed just what an asset he can be in the line out despite an awful season for the Exiles. Bath will be hoping the former Gloucester lock can build on that potential shown whilst he is at the Recreation Ground.

Taulupe Faletau

Age: 25

Position: Number Eight

Signed From: Newport/ Gwent Dragons

Honours: Wales U20, Wales and British and Irish Lions

faletau.jpg
Faletau dives over to score against the All Blacks.

Faletau the biggest name arriving at Bath after Wales’ tour of New Zealand. He is a force of nature regularly making World XV’s around the pubs and clubhouses of the world. With both Mafi and Fa’osiliva leaving the club he should more than fill the void and at only 25 he still has many years left in him.

 

Kahn Fotuali’i

Age: 34

Position: Scrum-Half

Signed From: Northampton Saints

Honours: Samoa

The Samoan man should be a good addition to Bath and could act as a mentor to Bath’s three young scrum-halves. His pace set him apart and he should be able to provide the quick ball to the backs that was lacking last year.

Harry Davies

Age: 22

Position: Wing

Signed From: Cardiff Blues

Honours: Wales U20

Not much is known about Bath’s young winger. He is 6’4” and 16 stone so looks a real threat. The Welshman looks like a real man for the future as he joins up with a rather strong Welsh contingent at Bath.

Rebuilding at the Rec

Bath Rugby endured a tough season and that culminated in the sacking of head coach Mike Ford among controversial circumstances off field as well as on field problems.

Bath have got a long summer ahead and with a coach expected to be announced in the coming weeks it looks as though next season could be one of rebuilding and overhauling at the west country club.

BUILD
Bath look to build this season.

The club should be strengthened by a plethora of high quality recruits including international number eight Faletau, exciting scrum-half Fotouali’i and the promising hooker Jack Walker.

The club will see this season as a time to make a team capable of consistently challenging for the top half or maybe even the top four. The play-offs is likely to be out of reach for the time being but in the future Bath may well see this season as a crucial building block in their development.

All teams that win titles do of course have to go through the building phase and this season that is the aim for Bath Rugby.

You could argue Bath are in a good place to start that process with a good crop of youngsters in Adam Hastings, Levi Douglas, Will Homer, Darren Atkins and new signing Jack Walker along with players like Denton, Faletau, Joseph and Ford plying their trade in Bath. This is a blend Saracens as a blueprint have perfected and a plan Exeter are leaning towards.

WALKER
Jack Walker is among a number of new signings.

Bruce Craig has the money to make Bath the team they want to be, now it’s down to the players and whoever the new coach may be to earn their money and do their talking on the pitch getting Bath back to where they need to be.

Potential Bath 23: 1 N Auterac 2 J Walker 3 H Thomas 4 L Charteris 5 D Attwood 6 D Denton 7 F Louw 8 T Faletau

9 K Fotouali’i 10 G Ford 11 J Williams 12 M Banahan 13 J Joseph 14 S Rokoduguni 15 A Watson

16 M van Vuuren 17 N Catt 18 D Wilson 19 E Stooke 20 M Garvey 21 C Cook 22 D Bowden 23 T Homer