- Bath Rugby
teamname = Bath Rugby
fullname = Bath Rugby Football Club
location = Bath,
founded = 1865
Team Manager = Dave Guyan
ground = The Recreation Ground
capacity = 10,600
coach = flagicon|Australia
captain = flagicon|England
season = 2007-08
position = 3rd
url = www.bathrugby.com
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Bath Rugby (also known as just Bath) is an English professional
rugby unionclub that is based in the city of Bath. They play in the Guinness Premiershipleague. The club has experienced major success, having in the past won England's domestic competition, the Anglo-Welsh Cup (as the John Player and Pilkington Cup), as well as the Heineken Cup.
Bath Rugby Football Club is one of the oldest clubs in existence being founded in 1865. With an original home base at North Parade, Bath then led a nomadic existence during the 1800s playing at Claverton Down, Lambridge Meadows, Taylor's Field and Henrietta Park. They then leased a plot of land at Pulteney Meadow where today's Rec stands.
Most games were played against local opposition: Weston-Super-Mare, Gloucester, Clifton and the "Arabs" from Bristol. By the 1890s Welsh clubs were becoming regular opponents, with Cardiff and Penarth regularly appearing in the fixture list. With a traditionally lightweight pack, they would suffer regular defeats. The club played its first fixture against overseas opposition in 1907, as Racing Club de Bordelais crossed the Channel to play at the Rec. 1954 saw a first overseas tour by Bath, who beat the French teams St. Claude (23-3). Givors (9-6) and Tour du Pin (17-0). The trip was repeated the following year with wins against St. Claude (13-8), Dijon (14-0) and Macon (8-3).
Captain Peter Sibley was the first to develop the ethos for fast, attacking rugby in the Sixties — an ethos that still lives on in today's team. With six foot four inch players such as England international back row David Gay and Peter Heindorff, Peter had players under his leadership with the physique to impose this style of play. With the mercurial John Horton and the incisive Mike Beese, the side continued to develop Bath's reputation in the early Seventies with some spectacular wins over the cream of Welsh rugby union in its heyday.
However, the revolution began with the arrival of coach
Jack Rowellin 1978. Rowell transformed the ethos of a club that had traditionally drawn its players from the immediate locality.
When formalised competitions started in the 1980s
Jack Rowellbrought premature professionalism to Bath and began to assemble a side with power and precision. The power, provided by Gareth Chilcottand Roger Spurrell was complemented by the precision of John Horton and winger David Trick.
By 1984, the first of ten knock-out cup successes had been achieved, at the expense of Bristol. Bath dominated the John Player Special Cup winning it four years on a trot, from 1984 to 1987. The cup sponsor changed to Pilkington, and Bath after a blip in 1988 dominated that cup as well winning it a further six times.
The Premier League started in 1986 and Bath dominated those by winning six times in eight years and doing the "double" four times. This feat has yet to be attained by any other club. Bath were an unstoppable force in 1988/89 and ran away with the Premiership title, winning the first ten of their eleven league matches. Their only defeat was at Leicester in the last game of the season, when Bath, with the title already won, rested several key players. The two sides met again a week later in the Club Championship Cup final at Twickenham which Bath won 10-6 to become the first English club to wrap up the double of winning both League and Cup.
1990 saw the last of six consecutive Twickenham final wins with a 48-6 humiliation of Gloucester.
1993/94 saw a unique "Grand Slam" of titles. In addition to the league (played on a home and away basis for the first time), the team won the Pilkington Cup (beating Leicester, with tries from Tony Swift and a youthful
Mike Catt), the Middlesex Sevens(beating Orrell in the Final) and the Worthington Tens. Arguably the most "professional" amateur club side in English history, Bath has struggled to match the achievements of the Eighties and early Nineties, after which, other clubs started paying their players making an even playing field.
In May 1996, Bath Rugby and Wigan RLFC made history by playing against each other at both codes. The first match was at
Maine Road, Manchesterunder League rules - result Wigan 82 Bath 6; then two weeks later the return match under Union rules was held at Twickenham - result Bath 44 Wigan 19.
The Professional Era
Jack Rowell's departure (to take control of the England team) in 1995 and rugby union becoming a professional sport in 1996 has seen Bath struggle to find consistency either on or off the field. With regular changes in the coaching staff (including Andy Robinson's appointment as England's Head Coach) and with a seemingly steady turnaround of players, the formula that led to past successes is still being sought. However, Bath captained by Andy Nicolstill managed to be the first British club to lift the Heineken Cup, in the 1997–1998 season. Bath beat French club Brive 19-18 in an exciting finl in Bordeauxwith Jon Callardscoring all the points for Bath.
Despite European glory, Bath slumped to sixth in the league the next season. In the disastrous league campaign of 2002/3, relegation was avoided by only a single point on the last day.
Having narrowly avoided relegation and merger with bitter rivals Bristol in the 2002/2003 season, the club invested heavily in its squad, with no fewer than 15 changes in personnel during the summer of 2003.
Jack Rowelland Michael Foleyrecruited wisely and the appointment of John Connollyas Head Coach helped gel the players into a formidable unit and the team ended the regular season at the top of the table six points clear of Wasps, but lost in the play-off final match at Twickenham.
Bath finished 4th at the end of the 2004/2005 season. The club reached the
Powergen Cupfinal after a dramatic extra-time try by Andy Williams in the semi-final against Gloucester, but lost to Leeds at Twickenhamafter a poor display. The pack continued to dominate but, with a backline once again decimated by injuries, many bemoaned the 10-man rugby displayed by Bath. Two players, Matt Stevens and Danny Grewcock, were selected for the Lions tour to New Zealand.
By the end of the 2004/2005 season, Coach John Connolly had announced his intention to return to his native Australia, having created one of the most dominant packs in club rugby. The appointment of Ex-England National Academy Manager Brian Ashton as the new Head Coach was announced in November 2005, and marks the return of the popular coach, who helped lead Bath to 6 league titles and 6 cup titles between 1989 and 1996. In May 2006, rumours of Ashton's return to the England coaching setup were rife. These rumours were confirmed on 25th of May 2006, when Bath agreed to release Ashton from his contract for an undisclosed compensatory figure, to return to the
RFUfold as Attack Coach for the England team.
Well known Bath players from the recent history of the club include
Jeremy Guscott; Dan Lyle, one of the first Americans to play regularly in Britain; England captain Phil de Glanville; and Andy Robinson, an assistant coach of the Rugby World Cup-winning England side, who went on to be the England team's head coach, until his resignation in November 2006.
Throughout the 2005 and 2006 season Bath Rugby have played in the Heineken Cup - a European tournament. In 2006 they controversially defeated Leicester Tigers in the quarter finals at a sold out Walkers' Stadium in Leicester, being reduced to 13 men for the last ten minutes of the match for continual infringements at the scrummage. Bath then went on to lose the semi-finals against Biarritz. As they finished 9th in the league that year, Bath were ineligible for the 2006/2007 HC competition, instead contesting the European Challenge Cup.
Bath were forced to find a new coaching team in summer 2006 after head coach Brian Ashton joined the England national team, forwards coach Michael Foley returned to Australia and skills coach Richard Graham joined Saracens. Backs coach, Steve Meehan, was appointed the new acting head coach.cite web | title=Bath promote Meehan to head coach | work=
BBC| url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/english/5237610.stm | accessdaymonth=31 August |accessyear=2006] His appointment was later made permanent.
In 2008 Bath won their first silverware in 10 years, beating Worcester to win the
European Challenge Cup.
The official supporters' club of Bath Rugby was formed in January 1997. The driving force was Jake Massey, who lobbied the club relentlessly once the game went professional.
Although working closely with Bath Rugby, it remains an independent club, with an elected Committee of 11 members with four named positions, comprising the Chairman, Hon Sec, Hon Treas and Membership Secretary. The CEO of Bath Rugby is also an ex officio member of the committee. The Bath Rugby Supporters' Club (BRSC) has a membership of over 1,000 and a fully drawn up constitution. Adult members pay a mere £5 annual subscription, £3 for Juniors and £10 for family membership. Each member receives a badge and membership card, the design of which changes at the start of each season. Members are entitled to various discounts at hostelries and retail outlets around Bath, including the Bath Rugby shop. The BRSC issues a quarterly Newsletter and has its own website at www.allez-bath.co.uk.
Social events and Q&A sessions are held throughout the year, with an AGM at the end of August and an Awards Supper held at the start of the season in September. All members are given an opportunity to vote for the players they consider are deserving of awards in various categories.
The BRSC runs at least one coach to every away game and proceeds from raffles held on these trips are donated to nominated local charities.
The BRSC is the major sponsor of the Bath Community Foundation, raising funds by means of a shirt raffle on every home match day and a competition called "Two in a Bath," which is jointly promoted with Bath Rugby. The club also sponsors a young player each year.
In 2003 the Bath Supporters Club was at the centre of a minor controversy when, unlike the
Bristol RugbySupporters Club, it did not publicly oppose the proposed merger between the two clubs [ [http://sport.independent.co.uk/rugby_union/article103460.ece Gloucester will lose Mercier to Grenoble - Rugby Union, Rugby - Independent.co.uk ] ] .
Bath was the first rugby club to have its own supporters' fanzine, "Everytime Ref, Everytime!" (ERE), and this was then followed by similar magazines compiled by supporters at Gloucester and Leicester. The Leicester magazine folded within its first season but Gloucester's Shedhead is still going strong. ERE was launched in 1991 and continued until 1999 when its paper format was replaced by an online fanzine.
ERE was devised and produced by two Bath rugby fanatics, Glen Leat and Clive Banks. They wanted to produce something which was more in tune with modern sports fans and had a bit of comedy linked to it. During 1999, one of the founders, Leat, began to explore the possibility of turning ERE in to an online magazine. He subsequently launched a very simple site called ERE2000 in 2000. The very basic format was reminiscent of the earlier days of the paper version of ERE. Within six months he was approached by a national internet company (Rivals) and agreed to run his site through their professional network platform. This lasted for a couple of years until Rivals found they were losing too much money and so converted themselves from a general sport network into a football network.
It looked as though ERE would be homeless and Leat had to consider going back to his home-made pages similar to the days of ERE2000. Fortunately another network (Sportnetwork) offered Leat the opportunity to run ERE through their network platform. So in May 2002 ERE found its current home and has grown ever since. In the early days ERE was visited by a few hundred people a day and in the first month achieved just 82,000 page impressions. However, by March 2006 ERE was being visited by some 2000 people a day and, for the first time ever, passed 500,000 page impressions in a month.
The site has evolved somewhat since its beginnings and now mixes a combination of rugby discussion and other 'off-topic' banter. At the beginning of the 2005–2006 season, the [Bath Rugby Official Site] launched their own message board. While this site could be viewed as a potential competitor, ERE has seemingly not been affected by it in terms of contributors, and the two boards have co-existed. Perhaps due to having similar interests and regularly being in the same place at the same time (The Rec in Bath on match days), the message board community has now spilled out into real life with contributors often meeting before and after games for socialising and rugby discussion.
In May 2008, ERE received a million hits for the first time.
Bath play at the Recreation Ground, also known as "The Rec". The stadium is in the centre of the city, next to the River Avon. The ground capacity is 10,600, and Bath play all of their home matches there during the club season. During summer, the ground is adjusted to make it capable for holding
cricketmatches. This cricket pitch is used for local contests but is also used by the Somerset County Cricket Clubfor two matches a year.
The English RFU have stated that by 2010, all
Guinness Premiershiprugby clubs will need a capacity of at least 15,000. However, the Rec has a current capacity of 10,600.
As a result, Bath chief executive Bob Calleja wants to know if the club can develop the Recreation Ground. A strategic review of the future of the venue is starting in October 2006, with the results set to be announced in December 2006. Calleja told the
Western Mail: "We would like an amber light to be able to proceed by February 2007. We would clearly put our focus on staying at and developing the Rec, but if that was impossible and we were forced to move, then the other options would become serious considerations. But don't mention Swindonor Bristolor Timbuktu, because we have no intention of Bath Rugby playing anywhere but Bath." [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/my_club/bath/5346604.stm BBC SPORT | Rugby Union | My Club | Bath | Bath seek answers on stadium plan ] ]
After Bath's defeat in the
European Challenge Cup, their fourth final defeat since 1998, captain Steve Borthwickmade an impassioned plea for the management to show the same ambition as the players. Chief executive Bob Calleja issued an immediate response that the management were matching the players ambitions - that money was available for recruitment and that development of the training facilities and Recreation Ground was being delayed by politics.Following this, rumours of a takeover involving Mark Jackson, a local businessman, have surfaced, but eventually came to nothing, but Simon Halliday re-joined the Club as a Non Executive Director in 2007. [ [http://sport.independent.co.uk/rugby_union/article2567937.ece Robinson and Halliday in the frame for Bath return - Rugby Union, Rugby - Independent.co.uk ] ] Andrew Brownsword's investment in the club is said to be £5m.
For an uptodate position on the Rec situation please see
Recreation Ground (Bath)
* Courage League / Zurich Premiership 1988/89, 1990/91, 1991/92, 1992/93, 1993/94, 1995/96, 2003/04 (lost play-offs)
* John Player Cup / Pilkington Cup 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996
European Challenge Cup2008 Finalists 2007 & 2003
rugby squad player | nat=ENG |pos=FL | name=
Michael Lipman(on-field captain)rugby squad player | nat=ENG |pos=CE | name= Alex Crockett(team captain)
Current England Elite Squad
Other Internationally Capped Players
* Michael Stephenson
Notable Former Players
* [http://www.bathrugby.com/ Official Website]
* [http://www.allez-bath.co.uk/ Official Supporters Website]
* [http://www.bathrugbyere.co.uk/ Everytime Ref, Everytime!]
* [http://www.bathrugby.com/forum/ Bath Rugby Fans Forum]
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