Many fans around the premiership may have raised an eyebrow at the result at the Rec on Saturday afternoon, however the blue, black and white faithful have been waiting to see a performance like that for some time. The 45-0 demolition of Leicester showcased the clubs English talent in its brightest light, Ford and Cook completely outplayed Burns and Youngs and although the Leicester faithful will highlight the absentees in the squad as a reason for this, at the end of the day a team with over 300 international caps got schooled on how to play rugby.
Although head coach Mike Ford will take many of the plaudits for Bath sitting top of the league after three games, a lot of credit must go to owner Bruce Craig who has poured investment back into the club. Since his takeover in 2010 he has opened his chequebook and supported various head coaches to fulfil his ambition to see Bath back at the top of English club rugby. Although big name foreigners such as Francois Louw, Horacio Agulla and Paul James have arrived at the club there has been a big emphasis on bringing promising young English qualified players into the club which now provides the backbone of the side.
If you look at the team that started on Saturday Webber and Wilson could easily be in an England 23 at the World Cup and potentially starting. Attwood is knocking on the door more and more regularly while outplaying his rivals in the Premiership. Carl Ferns is now injury free and reminding Lancaster what a devastating ball carrier he can be either at 6 or 8 and Guy Mercer is showing us the linkman that a number 7 can be between forwards and backs while still getting stuck in and turning over opposition ball, an outside bet for the Saxons perhaps.
In the backline Chris Cook has returned from various loan spells a much reassured player and looking confident in his abilities. His battle with another England contender, Mickey Young (who was first choice last season) will intrigue Stuart Lancaster as he looks at his Saxons squad. George Ford completely outplayed Freddie Burns and picked up another Man of the Match award to add to his growing collection. His ability to create endless try scoring opportunities is his key attribute but also at just 21 he has already improved his game in so many other areas. His goal kicking was outstanding on Saturday, missing just 1 kick out of 8 and he is no longer a weakness in the defensive line, if he is other teams have yet to exploit it this season.
The midfield combination of Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph looks like it could match any in club rugby around the world at the moment. Both solid in defence under Mike Ford’s guidance but also blistering in attack. Joseph has scored three tries in three games so far this season and is running lines that are tearing opposition defences to shreds, and Eastmond took a lot of praise off Ford senior on Saturday who said he took the ball playing pressures off George Ford to keep the Tigers defence guessing at all times.
Out wide Semesa Rokoduguni grabbed his fourth try of the campaign, it is so refreshing to see an English qualified winger who has speed, can finish but also smash people in defence. In my opinion this is what sets his apart from the likes of Yarde, Ashton and Wade and merits a start in the Autumn. England could have a winger in the mould of a Josh Lewsey in a position that has been a problem since 2007 when himself and Jason Robinson retired. Rokoduguni’s wing companion Anthony Watson didn’t feature on Saturday due to injury but impressed on the summer tour to New Zealand in the midweek game and is another name that people want to see in a white shirt. His ability to under a high ball and a freakish turn of pace for a man at 6’3 means he is one to watch out for.
Elsewhere in the squad props Nathan Catt and Henry Thomas also toured New Zealand with England in the summer and are very promising prospects. Catt will get his time in the shirt when Paul James is away with Wales so the World Cup is possibly a season too soon for him but Thomas will more than likely train with the England squad with Dan Coles injury and that is his chance to impress. Watch out for Nick Auterac too who is a promising loosehead that has just arrived from Sarries and looks the real deal. David Sisi is another name to watch out for, England 2015 will definitely be too soon for the former London Irish academy star but at 6’5 and 120Kgs the former England under 20’s world cup winner warrants some hype.
Another youngster gaining support from England fans is centre Ollie Devoto, 20, he won the LV= breakthrough player of the 2013/14 season last year and came off the bench for England against the Barbarians at Twickenham last year. Originally Ollie played at 10 for the clubs A team, then he featured successfully at 15 however last year he featured predominantly in the centres. Lancaster and Mike Catt are big fans of what he can do and I expect him to be up for Saxons recognition. Matt Garvey joined the club last season from London Irish, he had already previously received Saxons recognition prior to joining Bath, he played out of his skin at 6 last year and was key to Bath’s success. An injury at the end of last season cruelly took away any England hopes he may have had for the summer. Unfortunately Garvey is yet to play this season due to injury but when fit is a big man who can cover 6 and the second row, Booth is a big fan and will make the England coaching staff aware of it. The arrival of a certain Sam Burgess will also have the England coaching team on red alert as the season progresses.
Bath now possess a number of stars that Stuart Lancaster and co will be monitoring over the next 12 months and beyond. Below is a list I compiled featuring what potentially could happen when the EPS squads are announced in late October with regards to Bath Rugby players.
Possible Bath Rugby England contenders:
Other players on the England Radar: