With two rounds to go in last season’s Premiership Rugby campaign, Bath languished in eighth place in the table, having suffered eleven league defeats, their squad depth tested to breaking point. By the full-time whistle in Round 22, their rabbit-from-a-hat finish had seen them bag ten points and a sixth place Champions Cup spot with big wins over Gloucester and London Irish.
It’s little surprise then to find Director of Rugby Todd Blackadder buoyant and exhuberant ahead of the new season, with an (almost) full squad of players, including several new faces keen to impress.
Blackadder said, “We’ve really focussed on not only finding really good rugby players but good men as well. The character and the leadership that they’ve brought in has been huge.
“I wouldn’t understate it but I wouldn’t overstate it either at the moment but it’s certainly changed the whole dynamic. There’s a lot more leadership, the conversations are really focussed on the performance and how we can get better. I think we’ve got it right and we’ve recruited really well and really smartly.”
Along with Anthony Watson’s injury setback, Bath will be without Beno Obano for much of the season but the signing of Jacques Van Rooyen is designed to ease any front row woes. Commenting on his signing, Blackadder said “[It’s] huge for us, we were looking for a really good loosehead, the fact that he can play both sides is an absolute bonus. It’s great that he was involved in a Super Rugby final, he’s been in a good culture with a good team. It’s good to bring a player of his quality in to bolster the ranks.”
Reflecting on the choices he now has at his disposal for Bath’s opening match against Bristol in the Friday night derby at Ashton Gate, Blackadder compares it to last season, commenting, “We can actually train competitively. There’s competition for spots. You cant take things for granted. The workload isn’t managed by the few. Hopefully we can look after our players a lot better.”
Blackadder continues, “I actually think we’ve got a squad of 30-35 players here that you could select every single week that could challenge each other for places that I really, truly believe are Premiership ready. If anything, we’ve broadened our base and made it really competitive. If we have a few selection headaches this season, then great.”
Today is was confirmed that Guy Mercer is to leave Bath Rugby ahead of the 2018/19 campaign having been released from his contract – two years early.
Mercer made 123 senior appearances for the Club since making his first team debut in 2010.
Blackadder said: “We have an extremely deep and talented range of players in the back row and it was clear that time on the pitch would be limited.”
“We’d like to thank Guy for the immense contribution he’s made during his time with the Club. Not only has he captained the team, he’s been hugely influential passing on his experience to an exciting crop of talent coming through in his position.”
Mercer added; “I have had an incredible time with Bath Rugby and want to thank the players, staff and friends of the club that have made that possible.”
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