Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Gavin Henson faces wait over future at Bath Rugby

Bath boss Mike Ford admits he has “contingency plans all over the place” as he weighs up further signings for next season.

Head coach Ford has told a number of out-of-contract players, including Gavin Henson, that they will need to be patient before learning whether they have a deal for the 2014-15 campaign.

Bath have already made two major signings by securing League star Sam Burgess and England tighthead Henry Thomas from Sale, and are understood to be searching for a full-back to replace Clermont Auvergne-bound Nick Abendanon. The club is also mulling over options at scrum-half.

With Ford being in no hurry to pin down his final squad, the futures of utility back Henson and 36-year-old No. 9 Peter Stringer remain undecided.

Henson, who was signed for Bath by Ford’s predecessor Gary Gold, has been linked with a move to Newport Gwent Dragons. But the former Wales international is understood to be happy at the Recreation Ground and could yet remain at Bath if he impresses during the final months of the current campaign.

Referring to his negotiations with out-of-contract players, Ford tells me: “We’re still talking. There’s no rush.

“The players understand that we might take a bit longer on this particular occasion to give them more time and more opportunities.

“It also gives me more thinking time regarding the make-up of the squad.

“The recruitment is pretty fluid. Sometimes someone’s in, then they’re not, so you have to think again.

“We’ve contingency plans all over the place. It’s still ongoing.”

Thursday, 6 March 2014

BOO, HISS. What's acceptable behaviour from rugby supporters?

The sporting arena has long been regarded as a furnace in which moral virtue can be knocked into shape. The ancient Greeks feted their Olympic heroes as ideals of human fortitude, while the 20th century French philosopher Albert Camus put it in a somewhat different way. “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football,” he said, in between deep inhalations on filthily strong Gallic cigarettes.

Rugby is a sport that prides itself on values – traditional values of respect for the opposition, fair play and respect for the ref. Amid the value-free atmosphere that seems to pervade much of football, rugby is often celebrated as a healthy tonic.
Admirably, many professional clubs run their own community departments which seek to spread the word about the inclusive, friendly nature of rugby. But such acts of rugby evangelism have been undermined by recent events – some of them perpetrated by fans rather than players.
Rugby has long lost the moral high ground. We might not have had a top-flight manager head-butting an opposition player who was trying to retrieve the ball, but we’ve recently had gouging and spitting incidents aplenty, not to mention Manu Tuilagi’s series of full-blooded punches on Chris Ashton.
In recent weeks, we’ve had France number eight Louis Picamoles’ derisory gestures to referee Alain Rolland following his yellow-carding against Wales. (What would Camus have said?). Picamoles gave Rolland a sarcastic round of applause and thumbs-up when he was sin-binned.

Quite right too, but when I suggested such a thing on Twitter before Saint-Andre handed down his ban, you would have thought I’d called for Picamoles’ beheading. It was alleged that I was over-reacting.
I was surprised at the reaction. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been.
Okay, Saracens were defensively abrasive and had played the entire match – particularly the second half – on the very edge of what the laws allow. and gone beyond them on occasion. But this response from a chunk of the home crowd was pathetic, boorish and eye-rollingly one-eyed.
Having established a first-half lead, Sarries killed the game off by smothering Bath with the equivalent of one long chokehold. It wasn’t what the home side wanted to see and it wasn’t superficially attractive, but it was extremely effective.
Saracens were aggressive and streetwise, and the way they clinically extracted the away win had its own beauty about it.
To boo them was embarrassing. Almost as embarrassing as publicly undermining your own fly-half, which was what happened to Stephen Donald last season, who was subjected to various ironic cheers and jeers.
If Camus had seen Friday night’s activities, I’m sure he would have taken another thoughtful drag on his ciggie.