Friday, 15 May 2015

National eligibility protecting home grown talent?

Welcome to a can of worms and I'm now going to slowly and gently open it.

There has been a smidgen written in the press regarding English players playing abroad, hello Mr Armitage and Mr Abendanon, the debate is a lengthy little show and is endlessly rolling on. Rules state you play in England to play for England, it's simple but effective and aimed at protecting the Premiership from Players fleeing to sunnier climes and reaping some extra cash. We would love to see the best home players playing in England, so if a player chooses cash over country that's their decision to make but understand the consequences.

Blah blah blah we've gone over it a million times so let's move on to a different side of the eligibility argument.......the residency rules!
Before everyone jumps, I know it's not the RFU's ruling it comes from the hands of World Rugby, but it doesn't mean the RFU have to use it in their selections.

"Subject to Regulation 8.2, a Player may only play for the senior fifteen-a-side National Representative Team, the next senior fifteen-a-side National Representative Team and the senior National Representative Sevens Team of the Union of the country in which:  
(a) he was born; or   
(b) one parent or grandparent was born; or   
(c) he has completed thirty six consecutive months of Residence immediately preceding the time of playing."

Live in the country for 3 years or more, play for no other nation previously and boom you're now English! 
The RFU say they want to protect English teams and talent by keeping the players in England, then pick a player who has come from another nation to play rugby here, anybody get an air of hypocrisy from the RFU?

Please don't panic and believe I've gone all Farage-like, I am not completely against the whole concept. I believe it's something that needs to be looked into, 3 years just isn't enough. If you have emigrated to England and had education here that is a step it the right direction or Lived here for more than five years, only 2 years longer but shows a different level of commitment.



Nathan Hughes is one of the most recent player who has shown as interest in donning the red Rose and turn his back on his native Fiji. Why defect away from your own nation? Where is the pride? Born and raised in a country yet a more notable nation becomes a better option of success and jumps on that bandwagon. 
The same could be thrown in the direction of Rokoduguni, another Fijian who has joined the ranks of exile English rugby players. There is a little difference with Roko as he's currently serving in the British army even doing a stint out in Afghanistan. Bath picked him up while he was representing the Army at rugby and has since represented England. 
Both are ultimately taking the same option but different stories behind their choice, yet one seems a more justified reason. This is evidence that there are flaws and loopholes in the system.

Hendre Fourie is a prime example how the 3 year ruling doesn't work, came to teach eventually left after UKBA threatened to deport him. A farce in its self, he was eligible to play for England yet unfortunately had to retire due to injury before gaining citizenship. Eventually he was granted permission to stay but he returned to South Africa with his wife and (English born) daughter.

It is not the RFU's rules but they have an option to use it perhaps they should take stock look in the mirror and realise the hypocrisy they are serving up.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Could Bath end up like a wounded Gazelle ready for lions to pounce.

It's the ultimate honour to be picked for your country. Traditionally every player strives to pull on their nation's colours, run out and represent their country with pride and passion, in sport it's the ultimate accolade.

Bath have had some cracking performances this season against Tiger's and Sarries, some shaky games with a spirited come back and then Glasgow Warriors (less said about that the better). In their latest outing they may of lost to Toulouse, Bath never stopped fighting despite injury issues, the 16th man of the Rec definitely playing it's part.
Amongst the indifferent games Bath have had there has been some scintillating rugby played and a handful of players are reaping their rewards for it. Bath are seeing a season where promising talent is finally living up to their potential, and rightly getting to sport the Red Rose of England.


It has been a long time since Bath could boast such a wealth of international players in their squad.
Rob Webber
Davey Wilson
Dave Attwood
George Ford
Kyle Eastmond
Jonathan Joseph
Samesa Rokoduguni

Making the first draft into the England camp, with an additional selection made on Sunday including another two Bath players-
Anthony Watson
Henry Thomas

Adding that to Agulla (Argentina) and James (Wales) who are also on international duties Bath lose 11 players during the Autumn internationals.


Bath's. November fixtures
01 Nov - 15:00 London Welsh (H)
08 Nov - 16:30 Exeter (A)
15 Nov - 17:00 Newcastle (H)
22 Nov - 15:00 London Irish (A)
28 Nov - 19:45 Harlequins (H)

It is great for the players and for the club to gain such recognition in which they are to be truly commended for it, but it does leave a sizable gap in the Bath Ranks.
Bath are already missing Fearns, Garvey, Louw and Fa'osiliva due to injury and Houston on a suspension Bath certainly have a very depleted squad.
Hopefully for Bath their depth in squad will be able to fill some voids, but a tough few weeks could be ahead for the boys in Blue, Black and White. 


In fairness Bath and other teams have capitalised on other sides such as Northampton, Saracens, Tigers and Harlequins who in the past have been hammered with international duties. Now it's Bath's turn lets see how they handle the pressure.
Fan's will always hope to see their nation win over all else, but always have a second eye on their chosen club. The Autumn internationals can be a major disruption to some teams as it runs along side the normal rugby season, potentially it can be damaging to their campaign but players playing against some of the biggest teams in the world will certainly aid their development.
It will be hard for Bath but it's a hurdle they have to overcome and time for the other players to stand up and be counted, as has been shown by the young and talented Charlie Ewels.
With injuries in the back row the second row teenager stepped up and earned his first starting debut against Toulouse, off the back of his performance is now tipped to captain Bath against London Welsh in the LV=Cup this weekend.
With such depth in the squad Bath could scrape though unscathed during the international period, but it will be a true test of the club! 


Pictures courtesy of @onsideimages http://onsideimages.photoshelter.com

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Bath's backline bucking the trend

As a bit of a traditionalist I've always loved the way that rugby has been a sport for players of all sizes and ability.
You had the big bulky guys as props, the little hard nuts as the hooker, the big fearless back rowers, tall lofty second rows and Terrier like nippy scrum halves. Whereas your backs were the less physical but had pace and ability to run and avoid tackles with their jinking feet, stick the guys who can run like a whippet on the wing and the guy who can get a good hard tackle but still packing a bit of pace in at full back.

Obviously with most sports there comes evolution, rugby is possibly the biggest example of this since turning professional. Rugby is their job, therefore they need to be the best they can. Fitness, strength and skills now are imperative, these guys are now machines.

One man who turned rugby on its head and potentially the most evolutionary player in rugby was the "man mountain" Jonah Lomu. A 19st 6'5" tank that can move like faecal matter off of shovel. Suddenly everyone looked up and noticed that the big guys weren't just forwards but can serve a purpose in the backs, eventually leading to the "crash ball" backs.

Bath this season appear to be going against the trend a little (until the arrival of Burgess, whenever that will be) with much success. Almost a return to old school rugby.
Predominantly a back line of Cook/Stringer, Ford, Eastmond, Joseph, Rokoduguni, Woodburn/Watson and Henson/Arscott we've seen a return to some scintillating running rugby from Bath.

There has been a few cameos from Banahan, and as much as I rate him as a ball carrier, he's possibly been the least effective of Bath's Backs. Would Burgess realistically bring much more dynamism to Bath's backs? possibly not, would he make an effective back row ball carrier? Definitely! For me I believe Mike Ford's original diagnosis for him to play on the flank or at no8 would make sense.

Many pundits and ex-player's have stated there isn't a better centre partnership in the Premiership this season than Eastmond and Joseph, their link up work is phenomenal. It's another dimension that Bath have brought back to rugby, teams have learnt how to tackle the "bash" boys in the backs and how to close them out of the game, the step and pace has become as issue to tie down.

Kyle Eastmond being awarded Aviva Premiership player and try of the month for September shows a player of that ability can have more impact in the game. Using the forwards as the impact players linking up with the backs is being performed well at Bath, it also helps having the standard of forwards they have. From 1-8 in the pack have good carrying skills and know how to pop a good offload.

The almost rugby league clatteresque style that is becoming more part of the game, so far this season has been overshadowed by "the step", slick hands, guile and tenacity! Long may it continue and we are spoilt with more free running expansive rugby.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Bath Rugby's campaign ready to set Sale

Bath start their Aviva Premiership campaign to the echoes of Enya's 1988 hit Orinoco flow "Sale away, Sale away, Sale away......"
Every time Bath take on Sale Sharks it's always an enjoyable fixture, sadly only for the pun count not always for the results.

Sale are slowly becoming Bath's bogey team in the Premiership, with only one win in six over their last league meetings. Bath's win was a comprehensive 31-10 victory, but it was back in September 2012.
A win for Bath in the LV=Cup at the AJ Bell stadium is their most recent victory against Sale was last November, but it seems it's the Premiership that seems to be foxing Bath.


The two sides last match up was somewhat of a talking point. Sale running out victorious at the Rec by a solitary point. Danny Cipriani overshadowing his opposite number George Ford with a flawless kicking performance. Cipriani took all four chances at the posts scoring all of Sales points, whereas as Ford missed a penalty, a conversion after Ross Batty dabbed down but most importantly a drop goal attempt at the death of the game.

There was one moment that caused a vast amount of controversy that defined the game, raising more headlines than how hard and well both sides battled. The game will always be famed for the "great Scrum fiasco". A passage of play that took 15 minutes to complete just one scrum, where Bath earned Seven penalties and Henry Thomas receiving a yellow card and finding himself having a 10 minute timeout. Despite all of the penalties, yellow card and the fact it was on Sale's 5m line referee Dean Richards refrained from awarding a penalty try in Bath's direction. The letter of the law states that to award a penalty try the scrum must be moving in the direction of the try line, whereas the scrum failed to move before Sale were deemed to collapse it. A very contentious part of the fixture and some might even say it possibly cost Bath the tie. Sale eventually managed to scramble the ball away and avoided conceding any points from the relentless pressure, harsh on Bath but very shrewd from Sale.


Leaving Sale last season Henry Thomas has now joined the ranks at Bath, back to the city where he received some of his education. With Bath's first Premiership fixture coming against his old club, he'll have a point to prove and if victorious Thomas will have some good bragging rights to boot.

It was very evident last season that the main focus of Bath was upon the rising talent of George Ford. Ford who is very much in contention for the England 10 shirt with Owen Farrell had a glittering debut season with Bath, but when it comes to the Sale fixture there is a little extra pride at steak. George and head coach and father Mike are hoping to start the season off with a win, but older brother Joe has other thoughts. Joe who is based at Sale Sharks is also hoping for some bragging rights, it will make interesting viewing if the siblings end up facing each other on the pitch both playing in the fly-half slot!

Both sides will be wanting to start the season off with a bang and forget the end of last season. Sale losing their last three games at home and Bath missing out on the top four on the last day of the season, the potential for this clash is great and could be a be a brilliant test for either side to see how their season will progress.


Pictures courtesy of @onsideimages http://onsideimages.photoshelter.com

Friday, 22 August 2014

Henson is letting the rugby do the talking!

A player who has had so many controversial on and off the field headlines written about him, many people doubted his move to Bath Rugby at the start of last season. Now he's completed his first season and played in Bath's first preseason fixture against Scarlets, has Gavin Henson proved the doubters wrong?


Love him or hate him, he is definitely rugby's equivalent to Marmite, there's no mistaking Gavin Henson is a very gifted and talented player. His career has been a very bumpy little affair, with so much off the field antics and publicity overshadowing his playing ability. Henson's international career was blighted by injury and so far cutting it short to 33 caps for Wales and one Lions cap, although that's not bad figures for an international there should of been so many more, some people may say the timing of injuries aided the slump in his behaviour and career?

His nine year stint at Swansea/Ospreys saw him deliver some glittering rugby, although his "pretty boy" image somewhat overshadowed what a huge talent he was. He suffered yet another injury and this time Henson took an 18 month sabbatical. During this time there was many rumours involving his career, retirement, changing codes to rugby league and also many stories involving his personal life, eventually it led to Ospreys releasing him from his contract. 
It wasn't long before he had signed for Saracens but could only start playing for them once his time was up on Strictly come dancing, an uncertain period followed!

Saracens- 4 caps- released from contract.

Toulon- 2 caps- released from contract due to fighting with team mates.

Cardiff Blues- 8 caps- released from contract due to drunken behaviour on an airplane.

London Welsh- 7 caps- left to join Bath after London Welsh's relegation.

His move to Bath was very well publicised and a lot of fans were uncertain it was a good move for the club, Bath have had some bad times with publicity over the years and could do without the Henson press train coming to Bath, other clubs and supporters even mocked his move to Bath.


The start to his career at Bath didn't exactly go to plan, as before he had even graced the field at the Rec he was all over the papers for all the wrong reason once again. A night out with his new team-mates ended up with him taking a little nap on the floor of the Pig and Fiddle in Bath after an altercation with Carl Fearns who delivered a little "love tap" to Henson. 

Since the incident he has buried his head and just got on with what he should be known for.....rugby! There has been a few shaky performances but there is with any player, he has also shown some glimpses of the player everyone knows he can be. He also received a call up to play in the possibles vs probable's game for Wales, fully deserved although I feel it was Warren Gatland using him a publicity tool.  Gatland knew due to Premiership rules that at that time he wouldn't be allowed to play in the game unless Bath released him for the fixture and incurred a hefty fine, Gatland's way of highlighting what players lose for not playing in Wales! 


The gamble to sign Henson has so far payed off, for him and for the club, and this coming season I truly feel we will see some stunning and solid performances from him. George Ford will be away for large parts of the season with England and Henson is the automatic choice to fill in at Fly Half. 

To answer the question- has Henson proved his doubters wrong? It's hopefully looking that way! 

Pictures courtesy of @onsideimages http://onsideimages.photoshelter.com

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Bath rugby nearly 150 and ready for a blockbuster

As legend has it the creation of rugby came at the hands of William Webb Ellis, who in 1823 is alleged to be the first man to catch a football and run with it giving us the birth of rugby. Webb Ellis' moment is steeped in a romantic mythological folklore and makes for a great story, although they say the game and it's rules were penned properly some 22 years later at Rugby school where the Webb Ellis' moment is said to of occurred. However the game came to originate they did a great job creating an adrenalin filled game in which we can only thank them for.

Roll on to 1865 and a group of cricketers from Lansdown cricket club wanted something to do during the winter months, of coarse rugby was the obvious choice and that was the birth of Bath Rugby. A bit of a nomadic team for a few years around Bath before finally leasing a piece of land at Pultney Meadows, later becoming the Recreation ground and the home of Bath Rugby. Almost 150 years later and Bath have become one of the most recognised and successful clubs in Britain. 

                    


Bath have certainly had immense highs and their own fair share of lows, with their 150th anniversary next year how are Bath shaping up going into their Sesquicentennial year. Last season Bath showed they are fully on the journey back to the top, unfortunately being pipped to fourth spot in the Aviva Premiership by Harlequins. 
Despite losing out on the play offs Bath reached the Amlin Cup final, LV=Cup Semi Final and winning the Aviva 'A' league. These were very promising signs for Bath which has raised the hopes and expectations of all of the fans. As the new season rapidly approaches all of the jigsaw pieces are slotting into place to hopefully make Bath's 150th anniversary the "blockbuster season" it has been billed to be.

Stuart Hooper is going into his fourth term as club captain, supported by the players, who want to be led by him, a sense of unity is becoming apparent through the team. 
The strength of the squad is ever growing, with many internationals from EPS down to U20's the wealth of talent is helping Bath become the force they one were. Losing a few of the Blue, Black and White favourites at the end of last season, Bath haven't drafted in too many more players, although there has been some notable signings. Future, youth and talent seems to be Bath's new philosophy. Whereas some sides have brought in a fleet of players Bath have gone with 5- 3 front row forwards - Henry Thomas (Sale) Nick Auterac (Saracens) Grant Shiells (Newcastle). The reliable full back Luke Arscott (Exeter) and the heavily publicised and position yet to be decided Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs). Recalling Chris Cook from London Welsh after a great season with the exiles will help bolster the scrum half role.

A concern for many of the Bath Faithful is the fly half spot, having potentially one of the best 10's in the country with George Ford, there isn't another out and out 10 in the squad. Within the squad luckily there is many utility backs who could fill that void- Devotto, Eastmond, Arscott and of coarse Gavin Henson. Tom Heathcote departing for Edinburgh threw many questions about the 10 spot, the main one being how reliant will Bath be on Ford this season? A question only the coaches can answer. 

 What else is helping Bath Grow? The new sponsor in the form of globally recognised local company Dyson. Having such a well known company but also a local firm is a great marriage that Bath will thrive on. Sticking with the classic Blue,Black and White stripes (which made a favourable return last season) this season will see the Dyson logo on the chest and a little comment underneath- 110,000rpm, on a ball, digital slim, animal and hot + cool. 
   

The little promo video from Bath and Dyson was a little cheesy but displayed that there is good things to come from the unification. 

With relentless hurdles being thrown in the path of Bath regarding the much needed redevelopment of the Rec, finally some good news has been announced. Bath and North East Somerset council have now granted Bath permission for a temporary extension for two years, taking the capacity up to nearly 14,000. It may only be temporary but it could be seen a very positive step towards those planning designs so yearned after becoming a reality. There has been so many thorns in Bath's side with the Rec and talk of them leaving the historic site has been growing, hopefully this will be the first step to keeping them on the Rec and playing in the beautiful surroundings everyone knows and loves. 

 A blockbuster year for Bath's 150th anniversary........things are looking good.

2014/15 season tickets http://www.bathrugby.com/tickets/2014/15-season-tickets

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

World club 7's competition



The World Cup 7's returns!!!! Make sure you get involved.

Twelve of the best club rugby 7s teams from seven northern and southern hemisphere nations will battle it out at Twickenham on the weekend of 16th and 17th of August to be crowned the 2014 World Club 7s Champions.

Gloucester Rugby and Cardiff Blues will be joined by the Vodacom Blue Bulls, Auckland, NSW Waratahs, DHL Western Province, Buenos Aires, New York City 7s and Seattle as the teams competing for the title of rugby’s world club 7s champions.


Saturday will see 18 top quality 7s matches throughout the day; on Sunday the tournament reaches fever pitch as four trophies are decided.


Not only will there be a feast of top-class sevens action, but the tournament also promises the usual 7s carnival atmosphere, with a weekend of music and family entertainment, keeping fans amused between the dazzling on-pitch clashes.

I've got an opportunity to offer you one of two chances to win three tickets for you and your mates to enjoy either the Saturday or Sunday of the World Club 7s at Twickenham


To enter simply email the me the answer to the question below with your name, email address and phone number to bathbytes@gmail.com, also select if you would rather the tickets for the Saturday or Sunday. Competition ends on the 25th July at 5pm and I will ramdomly select the 2 winners........good luck! 


Q- who won the World Club 7's in 2013's completion? 

A) Glouscester 

B) Auckland

C) Cardiff Blues

D) Brumbies

E) Western Province 


There are tickets still available if you aren't either of the lucky winners, just visit Ticketmaster here http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/world-club-sevens-tournament-london-16-08-2014/event/35004C2D8AA513C9?artistid=1863317&majorcatid=10004&minorcatid=225