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Cipriani: 'Rugby has changed a lot'

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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New signing Danny Cipriani has given his first impression of Bath as they prepare to head into the new Gallagher Premiership season with their attack rejuvenated by the newly recruited David Williams, who has replaced Girvan Dempsey as attack and backs coach at The Rec.

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Bath disappointingly finished last season in seventh position, their haul of 52 points leaving them 19 points shy of qualification for the end-of-season playoffs they had contested in October 2020 when they finished the previous season 15 points better off in fourth spot on 67 points. 

It was May when Bath announced the recruitment of Williams, a former academy coach at the English club who had since spent the past eight years working in Super Rugby, PRO14 and Top League. The hope now is that his finessing of the Bath attack will give Cipriani and co the blueprint to light up the Premiership in a scintillating fashion.

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Voted the 2018/19 Premiership player of the year when Gloucester qualified for the semi-finals, Cipriani cut his ties with the Kingsholm club in December last year to take a sabbatical from the sport. Snapped up by Bath in late March, he reported for training two months later in May and is now being primed for a Premiership debut with his new club next month. 

Stuart Hooper’s squad have been recording their pre-season preparations in Bath Rugby Unseen, their in-house documentary series in which Cipriani has this week featured in episode two talking about attack and how that part of the game has developed in recent years.

“People have got to the point where they try and attack at all different points on the field, different areas. It’s not so predictable. There is lots of change,” enthused Cipriani, who has signed a Bath deal taking him through to the end of the 2021/22 season. “You see those different types of attack but they all commit to their one shape and what they do and they do it well and that is what we are trying to understand and get to which we are getting to that point and Dave is great at leading that, making sure we can have Bath’s identity, how we attack, our style. 

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“It is important to have an all-court game where you have forwards and backs making sure they are staying connected and everyone is working as one. Whether that be people connecting out the back of lines or people connecting in the front line, where ever it might be but understanding that at any point we can attack at any point on the field and making sure we can get the ball there sufficiently. Rugby has changed a lot in the last four, five years which means everyone has a big role to play in attack and it is not separated in any sense. 

“The attitude of Dave is infectious. He is so enthusiastic and he really does know his rugby from top to bottom. There is so much talent within the squad to work with, there is a lot of one-on-one talent, people to get the ball in hand and go and make a lot of runs and beat people whether it be in the forwards or the backs. We have got a lot of ball-handling forwards which is a great sign because it means we can get the ball through their hands into the backs and move it onto an edge because it is important we try and release our backs as best as we can.”

Set to turn 34 in November, Cipriani hasn’t played a match since Gloucester faced Leicester last November. Despite this lengthy layoff, though, Williams has high hopes for the Cipriani-led Bath attack in a season that will begin with the September 18 trip to Sale. “It is not about rebuilding, it is about trying to find margins where you can make this style come alive,” said the assistant coach who joined Bath from the Durban-based Sharks.  

“How I have changed as a coach would be I have really been clear pulling little bits from each people and you have got a real rounded view of how you view the game and how it can be played. That is the clarity when you are presenting in meetings or reviewing a game and planning training sessions you know this is the outcome you want to achieve.

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“Coming back after eight years of travelling around the world and working with some great coaches and stealing ideas from people I have got a really sound understanding of how I view the game and hopefully unifying it with how Bath view the game to create a great product.”

Meanwhile, Bath’s September 4 pre-season friendly away to Munster in Limerick has been cancelled due to Covid affecting the Premiership club. “We are hugely disappointed that we are unable to play this fixture and apologise to all supporters planning to attend. The health and safety of our players, staff and wider rugby community remains our top priority,” said Hooper.

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Cipriani: 'Rugby has changed a lot'

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