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.

BLACKADDER.jpg
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.

MATSON.jpg
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

 

Does Banahan Fit the Bill?

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.

BANAHAN1
Matt Banahan is an option to play 12.

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.

BANAHAN2
Banahan is no stranger to scoring tries.

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.

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

walker.jpg
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.

Bath’s New Coach

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.ford

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.johan.jpg

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.