15 for 10: Bath Rugby - an all decade XV
In a new series running up until the end of the year, RugbyPass will be looking back over the last decade and naming each Gallagher Premiership club’s all-decade team. The 15 for 10 series starts with traditional powerhouse Bath.
Having enjoyed plenty of success prior to the advent of professionalism and boasting a highly competitive squad in the 2000’s, the club’s form in the 2010’s has been patchy to say the best. Aside from a brief period under Mike Ford’s tutelage where they looked as though they might finally lift the title and once again be proclaimed as England’s best, they have largely milled around the middle of the table.
That is not to say the club hasn’t had it’s fair share of star players over the last 10 years, though, and there were plenty of tough calls when trying to balance impact, longevity and standing in the eyes of the club’s fans. Read on for the XV that made our final cut.
- Nick Abendanon
The case of Anthony Watson, presuming he can stay fit, will only increase moving forward, but it is impossible to ignore the consistent performances of Abendanon during his time in the blue, black and white. His tenure straddled two decades, although his final four years at the Rec before heading to Clermont were reflective of his class on the pitch.
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- Matt Banahan
As easy a selection as there was in this XV, with Banahan having tormented Bath’s opponents for the majority of the last 10 years. His move to Gloucester last year caught a lot of fans by surprise, although he chalked up over 250 appearances for Bath before leaving and certainly earned himself the tag of ‘fan favourite’, not to mention proving incredibly influential for the club on the pitch.
- Jonathan Joseph
After moving from London Irish, Joseph took his game to another level with Bath and his impact on the team’s fortunes has always been a positive one. The improvements he made to his defence whilst at the club have seen him become one of the most complete centres in English rugby and he can still play a vital role in a future Bath resurgence.
- Kyle Eastmond
Eastmond’s stock may have fallen of late, but the former rugby league man used to shred defences for fun in his Bath days. It was a tumultuous time at the club with coaching changes and the arrival and departure of Sam Burgess, though Eastmond’s performances alongside Joseph were one of the reasons Bath fans were so optimistic that they could disrupt Saracens’ growing dominance of English rugby.
- Semesa Rokoduguni
Alongside Banahan, Rokoduguni has been a stalwart out wide for Bath and although injuries have started to hamper him more recently, he is still as deadly a winger as there is in the Premiership when he is fully fit. He has spent his entire professional career with the club and since joining in 2012 has amassed just shy of 200 appearances and scored over 70 tries.
- George Ford
There was some significant competition here, with both Olly Barkley and Sam Vesty having had some level of success earlier in the decade, although Barkley’s peak for the club arguably came in the 2000’s. As for Ford, he was the spearhead when the club came closest to landing that coveted Premiership title and at no other point in this decade have they looked as formidable as they did in that season. His exit swiftly followed his father’s departure as head coach at the club, though his level of play for Bath is undeniable.
- Michael Claasens
The South African was excellent at scrum-half for Bath earlier in the decade and though honourable mentions must go to Chris Cook and Will Chudley, Claasens is another fan favourite. Despite playing just three years in this decade for the club, it is a mark of the impact that he had that he is an obvious selection here. Losing the half-back to Toulon in 2013 was a big blow for Bath.
- Nathan Catt
Sandwiched between the sunset of David Flatman’s career and the burgeoning CV being put together by Beno Obano, Bath have been lucky to have the consistency and set-piece excellence of Catt. He has been one of the club’s most dedicated servants over the past 10 years and he has been unlucky not to add a full England cap to the England Saxons, U20s and U19s appearances he has to his name.
- Lee Mears
Honourable mentions are due for Ross Batty and his impressive longevity at the club, as well as the leaps Tom Dunn has made in recent seasons. That said, Mears kept on producing well into the latter stages of his career, before the diagnosis of a heart condition prompted him to hang up his boots. He is one of just a handful of British and Irish Lions to have played for the club over the last decade.
- David Wilson
Wilson’s heyday came during his six-year stint at Bath, five years of which were in the 2010’s. Alongside a young Catt on the loosehead, Wilson helped keep Bath’s scrum sharp after the departures of talented front rowers such as Flatman, Duncan Bell and David Barnes. His time at Bath was the catalyst for an impressive career with England, too.
- Stuart Hooper
Charlie Ewels came very close to stealing this spot, though Hooper’s contributions as a player and captain arguably still outweigh those of Ewels. At 24 years of age, Ewels has time on his side to redress that in the coming years, although Hooper, now Director of Rugby, set a high standard at the position. He helped build growing momentum at Bath under Ford’s tenure and he and the club were unlucky not to have lifted at least one title.
- Dave Attwood
Attwood’s physicality and aggression made him a firm favourite with the Bath faithful, despite having started his career at arch-rivals, Bristol Bears. Danny Grewcock deserves a mention, too, although he was coming toward the end of his career at the beginning of this decade. Perhaps the biggest compliment you can pay Grewcock is that one of the major reasons Attwood makes the cut here is because of how reminiscent his style of play is to that of the veteran enforcer.
- Matt Garvey
Garvey goes under the radar somewhat at Bath, but he now has over six years of top-class service to the club. His consistency has been such that we have him ahead of players like Andy Beattie and Carl Fearns here, whilst his leadership and experience has been important in what is currently quite a young pack.
- Francois Louw
There was no debate here and whilst a player like Guy Mercer deserves praise for his contributions to the club over the years, Louw is in a class of his own and is one of the greatest imports that Premiership Rugby has ever seen. The Springbok back rower has been a force at the breakdown for eight years now in Bath and though they do not not lack for young talent in the back row, his absence will be sorely felt when he does eventually move on.
- Zach Mercer
No 8 is a position that has been in a relative level of flux for Bath over the last 10 years. Simon Taylor was the go-to man early in the decade, Taulupe Faletau has struggled with injuries since arriving and Fearns also had his moments at the position before leaving for France. Mercer may still only be at the beginning of his career, but he has already singled himself out as one of Bath’s most influential players. He doesn’t take a backward step and should continue to star for years to come.
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