Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Luke bares his soul

It's not uncommon to find tattoos on rugby players. What's a little more unusual is finding rugby players who've painted their bodies with religious symbols.

New Bath Rugby signing Luke Watson has four tattoos. All represent his devout Christian faith. And it's clear that he thought deeply before receiving them.

One simply says 'faith'; another - 'Habakkuk 3:17' - refers to a favourite verse. Then there's a large cross on his bicep with the words ‘eternal freedom’ emblazoned on it.

And the most recent piece of body art is a crown. And it is this that Watson is most effusive about.

Describing its meaning, the South African says: “Every man is called to be a king. The world is very class-conscious and this reminds that every man in his own world, in his own right, is a king.

"He has been given the opportunity – the human right – to make decisions, he’s been given the human right to justice and the human right to be a ruler in his own world.

"We so quickly judge and classify people and we forget that they have a right to be a king in their own world.”

Of his 'eternal freedom' tattoo, he remarks: “For me that is what Christianity epitomises. God comes into your life and frees you from a sinful nature, from guilt, from condemnation, from being lost and hopeless.

"I was chatting to one of the coaches the other day and I said I don’t know how people without faith do it.

“I have had a pretty interesting and challenging life up to now and the only way I’ve made it through is by knowing that no matter what happens God has a plan."

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Firstly, apologies for the hiatus in postings on this blog. I've just become a dad again and domestic matters - believe it or not - have trumped rugby matters over the past few weeks!

Quite apart from all the nappies and crying, it's been a busy fortnight on the rugby front. An interview I did with England and Bath prop Duncan Bell sparked something of a media storm, but Duncan and I have had a clear-the-air talk and there are certainly no grudges. For the record, I think Belly is one of the great characters of English rugby and there's no question he is passionate about Bath and its fans. I just caught him when he was feeling a little raw and emotional after Bath's poor showing against Irish.

Anyway, that's history. Here's a taste of my column that's in The Bath Chronicle this week:

“We’ve copped it from all corners this past week and we’re not denying that we deserve it given our performance against London Irish,” said Bath head coach Steve Meehan on Saturday.
But while criticism may have been deserved after Bath Rugby’s showing against the Exiles, not all of the fall-out has necessarily been on the money.
Jeremy Guscott, for example, used his column in The Rugby Paper on Sunday to launch a multi-pronged critique on the current state of his former club.
For a man who spent a distinguished, success-drenched career at Bath, Guscott is always commendably unbiased in his assessments of the club to which he gave so much.
There is never any favouritism in his accounts. Indeed, if anything, it sometimes tips the other way with the ex-England and British Lions man dishing out Rec-bound volleys of criticism when others are perhaps a little more hesitant in pointing the finger.
Sunday’s piece – which, in fairness, may well have been written before Bath’s plucky, pride-restoring display against Northampton Saints – certainly pulled no punches.
Ker-pow came the first paragraph: “There is nothing to like about what is happening at Bath at the moment. I have very little sympathy with either players talking about problems with the laws or the way that the drugs scene appears to have affected the club over the last year.”
The players, wrote Guscott, have “no-one to blame but themselves”, adding that “they are not playing as a team”.
I certainly agree that Bath have often appeared disjointed this season – and that charge was admitted last week by Meehan following the clear-the-air meeting that he had with players and the rest of the coaching staff.
And there’s certainly truth in the assertion that there is no merit in Bath casting around for excuses.
But, at the same time, there’s no doubt in my mind that the turgid morass that the breakdown has become this season thanks to the law changes has stifled Meehan’s instinctive game-plan.
The new law that allows the first defender to get his hands on the ball at the ruck has made quick ball rarer than a speedy planning decision at Bath Guildhall. And the result for Bath Rugby is the disappearance of the platform from which they were so effective in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
This change in the dynamic of games has wrong-footed Bath and finding the necessary adjustments to restore the team’s poise has taken far longer than most would have anticipated.
Read more at www.thisisbath.co.uk/sport