There is something of an influx of new players for the new season, among them some well known names, some eyebrow raisers. There is also quite a few young players who have come in and who will be coming up through the academy and I will be focusing on those too.
This signing is potentially the most controversial, given Gavin’s propensity for leaving a trail of clubs in his wake and for not shying away from the media spotlight. I know that when he was signed (as a utility back) the reaction from fans was near universal condemnation to have him on our books. I certainly have reservations; his skill at rugby so often seemed to have been a secondary concern to him over his celebrity lifestyle.
But he is undoubtedly a talented player when he puts his mind to it; after all, it was his talent that made him such a star at the start of his career. He does have a lot of experience and could prove- if he behaves himself- someone for the younger members of the squad to learn from. Let’s just hope it is the positive stuff, not the negative. When his signing was announced, Gary Gold said: “He is still a very ambitious man and the prospect of him playing at the Rec is an exciting one”. I think this sums it up quite nicely.
I had heard of Matt Garvey before he signed, but not to the extent that his signing extracted a jumping up and down reaction. He comes from London Irish, making up part of the exodus from the Reading based club Westwards to Bath. The England Saxons flanker can play at both lock and back row and will be a useful player to bring from the bench, I imagine. Time will tell if he can oust players such as Atwood, Hooper, Caldwell, Day etc, but I am glad he will be playing in Bath colours next season.
Micky Young and Martin Roberts
With the departure of Michael Claassens, Bath needed some depth at scrum half. With Peter Stringer having signed permanently, we now have a serious soldier able to play in that position, but the signing of Micky Young and Martin Roberts have bolstered it and given Gary Gold a variety of options. Young comes from Newcastle via Leicester and I believe he is pretty highly thought of. I suppose it would have been very hard to oust Ben Youngs as scrum half any time soon, and the chance to make his mark at another club was tempting. Welshman Martin Roberts has played for his country at every age level and has three international caps.
Houston comes to Bath as a newbie to the Premiership, having previously playing in France and Australia. He was something of a bashing, battering star in Oz, but went rather quiet when he moved to France. I love having signings like this (Fancois Louw, Matt Carraro and Julian Salvi spring to mind), when no-one has really heard of them in England and they come and make a splash. I hope this will be the same with Kiwi born Houston. When we signed him, Gary Gold said: “”Leroy is a guy I have admired for a long time and we are delighted to have secured him”. I consider that a pretty promising statement.
Juan Pablo Orlandi
Argentinean Orlandi comes from Racing Metro, the club to which we lost Olly Barkley last year. I must own to knowing very little about him save that he has 10 caps for Argentina. The front row is such a key area to Bath’s game that having international experience there will surely prove useful in the coming season.
At 20 years old, backrower Sisi comes to Bath in excellent form, having made up part of the under- 20s squad which won the Junior World Championship last month. The victory against Wales was hard fought but well earned and it is encouraging to have players such as Sisi on our books. Current Bath player Ollie Devoto, who began breaking his way into the team last season, was also playing in that game and it seems as if this prior experience playing together may become useful.
At just 19, this former Irish player looks like he will become an impressive understudy to Nick Abendanon at fullback. He is certainly fast enough, something Abendanon has made full use of in his career. From the little I have seen of him, he seems like a simmering talent waiting to explode. Watson was also part of the winning under- 20s side in France in June.
Yet another ex London Irish player, Joseph is a touch more established than the two colleagues above (despite being only a year or two older), having made his first start for the England senior side against South Africa last summer. He started both tests against Argentina in June this year. He never entirely went stratospheric at Irish, so we can hope that his undoubted talent will find a happy home in Bath.
The signing of George Ford to a club where his father is a coach is perhaps not surprising, although Mike Ford will no doubt make sure to distance himself as much as possible and make it a professional relationship on the pitch. There were rumours of Ford Jr coming to Bath as soon as his dad joined, but they only gained some credence at the start of 2013. Richard Cockerill of Leicester said openly that he believed Ford was heading to Bath months before the signing was announced. I for one have no idea what was going on behind the scenes! There was also some mutterings by Bath fans about the fact that Ford will be competing directly with fellow young fly half Tom Heathcote. I personally feel that having two international youngsters at number 10 can only be a good thing.
Ford was the first English and youngest ever player to win the IRB Junior Player of the Year award, in 2011 when playing for England under-20s. He has played his way up through all England age groups and has been seen playing for England Saxons. The familial connection, in conjunction with how the signing occurred, will hopefully be forgotten once he starts playing in the blue, black and white.