Monday, 12 June 2017

Dave Attwood: Bath's lack of trophies is increasingly frustrating

A frustrated Dave Attwood says Bath must stop “hinting and teasing” at what they can achieve and instead finally deliver silverware.

The West Country side have not won a trophy since lifting the European Challenge Cup in 2008, with a loss at Sale on the final day of the regular season ending any hopes of the club salvaging a place in the Premiership play-offs.

After spending five trophy-less seasons at The Rec, lock forward Attwood admits to an increasing sense of disappointment.

Bath were riding high in the league table prior to Christmas, but a lack of consistency saw them gradually fall off the Premiership pace.

And Attwood admits the formula that will give the club the necessary consistency remains elusive.

Bath have had four different bosses since Attwood joined the club in 2011 – Sir Ian McGeechan, Gary Gold, Mike Ford and now Todd Blackadder – and Attwood believes such churn has hindered the side’s fortunes.

“As a club, we are capable and should be achieving play-off rugby, finals and we should be aiming for silverware every season,” 30-year-old Attwood said.

“It’s increasingly frustrating from my point of view.

“We certainly don’t have the answer to what it is that will produce the consistency. We’ll have to keep kicking on and hopefully the process will give us the answer.”

Since Attwood moved to Bath from Gloucester in 2011, Bath were defeated finalists in the Challenge Cup in 2014 and Premiership runners-up to Saracens in 2015.

“We’re on the fourth coach since I’ve been here and that doesn’t help,” he said. “The turnover of the squad has been quite dramatic and there have been a number of other factors that have contributed.

“We’re trying to be very specific about what we are trying to fix. Sometimes it’s strategy, sometimes it’s emotional.

“Trying to put your finger on the recipe is difficult but a number of teams have managed to do it – look at the Bath of years ago, Wasps, Leicester and now Sarries.

“We’ve struggled to find it. A few times we’ve teased that we are there. Hopefully it’s a matter of time before it clicks and it lasts for a whole season.”

Attwood’s season was marred by a niggling knee injury that kept him out for four months, with the 24-cap England forward only returning for Bath’s Challenge Cup semi-final defeat to Stade Francais.

“Four months out with an unfortunate injury which was teasing me with the promise of fitness but not delivering was very frustrating,” he said.

“It reflects what’s gone on with the season as a whole at the club, where we’ve hinted and teased at what we can deliver.”

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Jim Mallinder: why aren't we using Television Match Officials?

My latest piece for The Times, in which Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder ponders the use (or non-use) of the TMO by referee Wayne Barnes in the Saints' last-minute 32-20 loss at Bath.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Matt Scott on Scotland 6 Nations recall: I've Billy Twelvetrees to thank

Matt Scott was on Wednesday named in Scotland's 6 Nations squad, having been overlooked by Vern Cotter for the Autumn Internationals. Just a week-and-a-half ahead of the recall, Scott told me he'd have Gloucester team-mate Billy Twelvetrees to thank if he got the call... Here's that piece, first published in The Rugby Paper:

Matt Scott couldn’t be doing much more to stake his claim for a Scotland recall ahead of the Six Nations – and he says he has an Englishman to thank.

Dropped from Vern Cotter’s squad for the Autumn Tests, Scott has been working with fellow Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees on refining his game.

And it has reaped some immediate dividends.

TEAM EFFORT: Matt Scott and Billy Twelvetrees bring down Leicester's Manu Tuilagi

Scott is tied for second with Bath winger Semesa Rokoduguni in the list of top Premiership finishers this season, with eight tries to his name. Only Wasps’ Christian Wade has dotted down more times in the league.

But it is in defence where Scott has been focusing most of his efforts since making the summer move from Edinburgh to Kingsholm, with Twelvetrees – himself overlooked by his country – proving an inspiration.

AGE: 26
INTERNATIONAL DEBUT: 10 March, 2012 versus Ireland
CLUBS: Edinburgh, Gloucester

"The feedback I got after I was dropped was about the defence – they felt there were a couple of other centres who were maybe more defensively sound than me,” said 26-year-old Scott, who scored twice in Gloucester’s seven-try thumping of Worcester last weekend. “They told me to keep working on it and that’s what I’ve been doing.

HEAD TO HEAD: Scott and Twelvetrees in action against one another in the 2013 Six Nations

“I have been working with Billy and I love the way he has this energy and passion for defending. I’ve not come across anything like it before.

“He is a class player – an England international and a British Lion – and it’s lovely to be able to learn off him and these other guys.”

Scott has 36 caps, with his last appearance for Scotland coming in June against Japan.

“I’m absolutely desperate to get back in the mix for the Six Nations,” he said.

“I was absolutely gutted to miss out in the autumn. But centre is such a competitive position now in the Scotland squad, whereas in the past it maybe wasn’t.

“I need to improve all aspects of my game to get in the squad and if I can get up there where the coaches can watch me then I can hopefully show them why I’m worthy of a place again.”

“Scoring tries gets your name in the headlines but it’s about the whole performance and there are other aspects of my performance that need working on. Sometimes scoring tries glosses over that.”


Monday, 5 September 2016

Jonny May: I've half an eye on Autumn International return for England

England flyer Jonny May is eyeing an international recall for the Autumn Internationals as he targets a speedy return from a serious knee injury.

After rupturing knee ligaments in December, Gloucester wing May was forced to play the role of frustrated bystander as England completed a Six Nations Grand Slam and whitewashed the Wallabies in Australia.

But now May has his sights set on a potential return against South Africa at Twickenham on November 12.

“Why not go for it?” he tells me. “But if the knee’s not right, I’ll be patient and sensible about it.

“I’ve got plenty of time. I’m only 26.  I want to get a healthy knee and I’m confident my best days are ahead of me.”

May, who has 19 caps, was injured just a month after Eddie Jones arrived as new England boss, but a steady flow of messages from Jones has buoyed May’s confidence, as did his inclusion in Jones’s 45-man provisional squad for the Autumn Internationals.

“I got injured as soon as Eddie came in but he texted me as soon as he found out I’d got injured and has texted me every now and again to check up on me,” said May, whose club, Gloucester, are yet to record a win this season having lost against Leicester and drawn at Worcester.

“I wasn’t expecting that but I was really pleased he did because it gave me a bit of motivation and showed I was still in his thoughts."

“I’m aware I’ve a long way to go and I’ve a lot to get right but I hope that I’ve still got some of my best days ahead of me. I definitely want to play for England again.”

May, who faces a battle with Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell, Harlequins’ Marland Yarde and Bath’s Semesa Rokoduguni for the England wing berths, is scheduled to return to full fitness in the first week of October.

* This is a shortened version of an article that first appeared in The Rugby Paper. For detailed coverage of rugby in the UK at every level, see The Rugby Paper every Sunday.