Guinness Premiership Preview: can Bath enhance their performance this season?

There are less than two weeks to go now until the Guinness Premiership begins again, and as we continue our build up, Jon Hobbs evaluates whether Bath can put their off-field troubles behind them this season.

Olly Barkley

Players In
Olly Barkley (Gloucester)
Ben Skirving (Saracens)
David Wilson (Newcastle)
Luke Watson (Western Province)
Julian Salvi (CA Brumbies)
Matt Carraro (Waratahs)
Nicky Little (Petrarca Padova)

Players Out
Laurence Ovens (Newcastle)
Paulica Ion (London Irish)
Chris Goodman (Bedford)
James Scaysbrook (Exeter)
Shaun Berne (Leinster)
Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu (Gloucester)
Robbie Kydd (unassigned)
Matt Stevens (suspended)
Michael Lipman (resigned)
Alex Crockett (resigned)
Andrew Higgins (resigned)
Justin Harrison (retired)

Harlequins just pipped Bath to the undesired title of the club who have filled the most column inches in the off-season, almost exclusively for the wrong reasons. The last five names on the players out list tell the story of what has been a turbulent summer, the problems beginning on the evening of their play-off semi-final loss.

To lose five players so integral to what has become a successful squad would devastate most teams but Bath have developed strength in depth and some astute signings should lessen the impact. In Luke Watson they have a player in his prime, and more fitting a replacement for the boisterous Michael Lipman would be hard to name. He should bring some class in attack as well as tenacity in defence, but perhaps given Bath’s recent indiscretions it will be Watson’s tee-total nature and dedication to training that will be of greatest benefit to the squad.

The remainder of their signings add more than the departures will take away. The Bath faithful will hope Olly Barkley can return to the form he displayed in his last season at the club, rather than the season-to-forget he had at Gloucester.

Ben Skirving has proven his premiership pedigree at Saracens and should provide a solid option in the back row throughout the season, without international call-ups to distract.

Salvi and Carraro bring some Aussie exuberance to the squad, while Nicky Little will provide cover as Barkley and Butch James recover from injury.

Out of adversity often comes triumph and this Bath squad will have as much to prove as any other team. However, the scrutiny the club will be under both on and off the field will result in a pressure-cooker environment, becoming mentally taxing at the business end of the season.

They’ve too much quality not to make the play-offs, but may well fall at the final hurdle again.

Prediction: 3rd (losing play-off semi-finalists)

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One thought on “Guinness Premiership Preview: can Bath enhance their performance this season?

  1. Northampton, Irish, Quins and Leicester all look stronger to me – although Watson is a terrific signing. If the new players can be kept for another year then I’d expect Bath to flourish in the 2010/11 season.

    Though what toll Richards departure and the publicity will have on Quins is a tough one to predict. They could come together, they could fall apart… top 3, or bottom 3, the league is incredibly competitive.

    Northampton for me have pipped Bath to the back row signing of the season in Phil Dowson – the perfect premiership back row has been overlooked by England, but he’s exactly the type of player an exciting back line needs to thrive. Hard, go forward, no nonsense, selfless.

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