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Bath celebrate heritage with unique player numbers

By Jon Newcombe
5 May 1995: Jeremy Guscott and Ben Clarke of Bath celebrate Clarke’s try during their Pilkington Cup Final match against Wasps at Twickenham. mandatory credit: David Rogers/Allsport

Bath Rugby have honoured each of the 2,952 players to have played a competitive fixture for the club since it was founded in 1865 with a Unique Player Number (UPN).

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From UPN #1 Thomas Gandy, one of the club’s founding members, through to the most recent debutant, South African forward Jacques du Plessis #2,952, each player’s place in the history of the West Country club is denoted in order of their appearance.

During the extensive and rigorous research process into the club’s long and rich history, Bath Rugby’s heritage team have undertaken countless hours of research into fixtures dating back to 1865 to ensure that each player, past and present, has been attributed with the correct UPN.

Individuals who have played for the first team, in both the amateur and professional eras since 1865, have been assigned a UPN. However, it was determined that the criteria during the professional era would only include recognised competition fixtures, excluding friendlies and one-off games

John Hall, a former Bath Rugby player, captain, and now Club President and Heritage Chair, played 277 times for the Blue, Black, and White over a notable 14-year senior career.

Bathonian Hall has continued the legacy of his late father, Peter Hall, former player #1,825, who initiated the research and did so much to catalogue the deeds of former players along with Geoff Pillinger, who served the club as player #2,200, selector and coach until he sadly passed away in 2017, and more recently Steve Richards, a team-mate of Hall’s, took up the challenge. #2,351.

As the proud holder of UPN #2,350, John Hall commented: “The Unique Player Numbers serve as a tribute to each player’s contribution to Bath Rugby, capturing the honour and prestige associated with representing the club at its highest level. They also reinforce Bath Rugby’s ongoing dedication to celebrating its history and current success, whilst forging future ambitions.

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“The project is more than a mere archival exercise for Bath Rugby; it stands in homage to those individuals whose commitment and passion have formed the club’s legacy, while also paving the way for future players to join this unique fellowship and contribute to shaping the club’s future success.”

Back-row forward Hall followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Harry Vowles in captaining the club, and his Uncle, Tom Smith, played prop in the 1950s, the same decade as his dad.

Hall added: “As a club, we look back on our proud past, we celebrate what we are doing at the moment, which is building and we’re on a journey, and we are also looking forward to what will be in the future. The past, present and future are very much at the forefront of where the club is.”

The Halls were one of several father/son combinations to have worn the blue, black and white, and more recent examples include Steve and Max Ojomoh and Phil and Tom de Glanville.

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Hall is widely acknowledged as one of the best players to ever pull on the famous jersey, and to this day Jerry Guscott, #2,419, is spoken about in similarly reverential tones by the club’s faithful support base.

Roger Spurrell, one of Bath’s finest captains, who led the club to its first-ever major trophy when they beat Bristol to lift the John Player Cup in 1984, is player #2,327. It is understood the 40th anniversary of that landmark day in the club’s history will be marked by a past players’ reunion at the Saracens game on Friday, April 26th.

Another figure of note is John Kendall-Carpenter, credited as the brains behind the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987. The former England international is UPN #1,832.

The honour of having UPN #2,000 goes to Robert Randall, who made eight appearances for the club in 1960 while stationed near Bath with the RAF.

Randall went north, to play for Orrell, and also with Widnes RL, for whom he played in the 1964 Challenge Cup final. He was a team-mate of Geoff Frankcom, who is also credited for his involvement in the project alongside countless others such as current rugby journalist and co-author of two of best-known books on Bath Rugby’s history, Before the Lemons and After the Lemons, Kevin Coughlan.

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Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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