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.

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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.

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The Blackadder Blueprint

Bath have their man, or to be more accurate men as today it was announced that Crusaders duo Todd Blackadder and Tabai Matson would take over at Bath as director of rugby and head coach respectively.

The coaching team have an impressive record especially Blackadder who took the Christchurch based franchise to two Super Rugby finals in eight years and is an expert in guiding his team to play-offs.

What will Blackadder bring?

A question that will be looming large in Bath fans’ minds.

Blackadder will bring a number of things. Firstly the Crusaders are focussed on being the most well conditioned team in Super Rugby.

Bath Rugby will be extremely well conditioned, they will be at peak physical condition through extensive sprint drills, gym work and explosive training exercises.

This conditioning aspect will make Bath more efficient, more powerful, more cohesive and a generally fit unit.

Blackadder will also bring a very strong focus on keeping the ball. Bath’s forwards were outmuscled and at times humiliated by the opposition.

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Todd Blackadder will be Bath’s new DoR.

It is fair to say that Blacadder’s Crusaders pack has had some real stars in it over the years most recently the likes of Sam Whitelock, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read all double World Cup winners.

That is some force but the potential is the same with this pack, Louw is one of the best openside flankers in the world. If Bath can build a unit that is strong on ball retention around Louw, Bath will be a strong force in attack.

Ball retention also revolves around having a mobile tight five, Bath have some players that could fit that mould.

Nick Auterac, Ross Batty, Charlie Ewels, Dave Attwood, all of them are already quick over the ground and if coached correctly could fit the Blackadder mould perfectly.

What will Matson bring?

For rugby fans in the northern hemisphere, Tabai Matson is a relatively unknown quantity.

All fans need to know is that Matson has been working very closely with Fiji since before the World Cup as the attack coach.

Is this a sign that Bath fans could finally see the best of former Glasgow scrum-half Niko Matawalu? Matawalu is an exciting player with some really good skills and at 27 he has his best professional years coming to him.

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Matson has held both specialist defence and attack roles.

Matson should be able to let the Bath backs express themselves different to the rugby league hybrid way Bath had before under Mike Ford.

The 43 year old will try to blend his attacking credentials and individual brilliance of some of Bath’s backs with a controlled approach which will be helped by current Bath coach Darren Edwards.

How will Bath Rugby fare?

The impossible question, having recruited late I think it is unrealistic to expect Bath to be winning the championship this year.

Top four is possible but I still think an unlikely prospect, Bath with this stage of rebuilding must aim for the top half though, anything other than a Champions Cup spot is failure for Bath this season.

Expected Bath XV: 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 Jack Walker 3 Henry Thomas 4 Luke Charteris 5 Dave Attwood 6 David Denton 7 François Louw 8 Taulupe Faletau