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Back from the abyss, Bath's revival is gathering steam

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'People ask about my time at Bath, I f**king hated it. It was s**t'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

New Leicester signing Freddie Burns has doubled down on the criticisms of his time at Bath, revisiting his unfulfilled three-year stint at The Rec in an interview in the latest edition of the Rugby Journal. It was in May 2020 when the ex-England out-half initially laid bare his frustrations at Bath prior to his one-year switch to Japan. “I don’t really know,” he told RugbyPass 16 months ago when asked why his face didn’t seem to fit under Stuart Hooper and Todd Blackadder, the Bath directors of rugby he worked under.


“That is probably the biggest frustration. With Bath, I sat in endless meetings where the talk was about wanting homegrown talent, people from the city. I sat in meetings where they talked about how we have not scored tries in a game, and I have sat in endless meetings this year where it was said our attack had let us down yet I didn’t seem to get given an opportunity. 

“I don’t know whether I dug my own grave by dropping that ball against Toulouse (in October 2018) and it’s something the coaches have held against me, I don’t know. That was the frustrating thing for me, the fact that I don’t know quite what I have done to warrant not getting an opportunity. I stepped in at full-back a lot this year and thought I played well. It’s hard for me. I have got to bite my tongue a little bit but it’s very hard to piece together why I have been given such a lack of opportunity.

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Freddie Burns guests on the RugbyPass Offload talking about his season in Japan
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Freddie Burns guests on the RugbyPass Offload talking about his season in Japan

“I’d sit and watch games where I felt like I could have a good influence and it seemed I was left on the bench until Bath had taken it to a score where a team couldn’t come back or a team scoring so that we couldn’t come back. Then it was ‘alright, Freddie, get your trousers off, you can go on now’. 

“I wasn’t too happy with the game time I got under Todd either,” continued Burns about his Bath experience. “There were times at the back end of Todd’s reign where I went in and pretty much begged him for game time, so I actually thought the change of management was going to be very good for me.

“I sort of felt Hoops [Hooper] rated me but obviously that proved to be completely different. Like I say, it’s one of those things, it’s people’s opinions. These coaches are paid to make these decisions and the decisions just didn’t go in my favour. I don’t really hold any bitterness towards Bath. I’ll talk honestly about how I felt and my frustrations, but it’s just the way sport is now. You just move on.”


Burns most certainly has moved on, spending a season in Japan before agreeing to a deal last March that has taken him back to Leicester, the club he was with for three seasons prior to his 2017 switch to Bath. His latest team is due to meet Bath on November 5 at Tigers, with a rematch at The Rec to follow in mid-February, and it sounds like the 31-year-old would like nothing better than to play at his best in those two matches.  

“People ask me about my time at Bath, I f**king hated it. It was s**t,” said Burns in the latest edition of the coffee-table Rugby Journal which also carries lengthy interviews with Adam Radwan, Shaunagh Brown, Simon Middleton and takes a look at Nottingham’s fight for survival. “Do you know what I mean? I got sent off on debut, I dropped the ball against Toulouse and I hardly f**kin’ played. Of course, I didn’t like it.

“Bath was a chance for me to put on my hometown shirt and all that sort of stuff. And I am respectful towards the people there but to be honest with you, I don’t feel like I got treated particularly well by the coaching staff in terms of the honesty that I feel like you should be given as a player for how hard you work. This isn’t me getting my violin out and being like, ‘Everyone feel sorry for me’. It’s just the truth, how I feel.

“I needed Japan more than I thought. It really ignited the excitement in me and changed my perspective on life and rugby. I was being frozen out at Bath. I was training hard but not getting the rewards for it. I won’t have been the only player feeling like that – there are players who don’t even make the matchday 23 and I don’t know how they do it. But I was a bit demoralised, a bit fed up. 


“I was stuck on the bench,” continued Burns, who ironically begins the new Premiership season for Leicester sitting on their bench behind George Ford for Saturday’s opener versus Exeter. “In my last season at Bath, I only played once as a starting No10 in the Premiership, which kind of tells you everything you need to know, so I told my agent maybe it’s time to change it up.”


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