Wednesday, 3 September 2014

2014/15 Season Preview: Bath

Founded: 1865
Years in Top Tier: 27
Last Year: 5th in Prem (67 points), Amlin Challenge Cup beaten Finalists, Anglo Welsh Cup Semi finalists
Europe: Champions Cup
Director of Rugby: Mike Ford

In: Henry Thomas (Sale), Nick Auterac (Saracens), Sam Burgess (South Sydney RL), Luke Arscott (Exeter), Grant Sheills (Bath)
Out: Anthony Perenise (Bristol), Nick Adendanon (Clermont Auvergne), Josh Ovens (Retirement), Nick Koster (Bristol), Charlie Beech (Leeds), Tom Briggs (Worcester), Eusebio Guinazu (Unknown), Tom Heathcote (Edinburgh), Martin Roberts (Ospreys)
Ins: 5
Outs: 9

Bath are due to enter their sesquicentenary celebrations at the end of this season, what is a sesquincentenary you ask?  Obviously it is a 150th anniversary.  Apparently.  Amusingly the word appears to be almost 90 years younger than Bath Football Club its self.  Never mind.

Bath pretty much lived up to my expectations last year, starting well and their forwards providing enough grunt in the winter they fell away in the second half of the season and were pipped at the post by Quins for the final playoff spot.

Most of the off season work has been tinkering around the edges of the squad with Nick Abendanon and Anthony Perenise the only major leavers.  Perenise has been replaced by local Bath boy Henry Thomas whilst Luke Arscott’s surprise exit from Exeter covers Abendanon’s departure to France.

Bath’s pack remains a fearsome weapon and at times last season we saw the back line begin to motor.  With Ford pulling the strings the likes of Devoto, Eastmond and Watson were free to wreak havoc.

The major signing is league’s Sam Burgess, apparently as a centre despite being a prop or lock in the 13 man game.  A Brad Thorn-esque switch to the pack makes more sense to me.  Burgess could well be a major disruptive influence to a Bath side that seemed on the edge of igniting, the pressure from the media and the meddling of Lancaster will likely see him pressed into action too soon and seemingly at centre disrupting the burgeoning Ford-Eastmond-Devoto axis.

A tough opening spell where they face Leicester, Northampton and Saracens in consecutive weeks may well prove to be the difference between 5th and 4th for the West Country men who still look at least one more year away from ending their 19 year title drought.

Prediction: 4th

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