Friday, 2 September 2011

Dave Attwood: "I'm not going to try and be the next Danny Grewcock"

Dave Attwood’s dog – recently back from an emergency dash to the vet – is giving him the runaround. “I’m sorry, I’ll have to call you back in ten minutes,” he apologises, an ever-so-slight hint of alarm in his West Country brogue.

Being given the runaround is not an experience to which the hulking 18st England lock is accustomed. Nor is the emotion of alarm one that you would readily associate with the man; it’s he who does the alarming.

But Attwood, who is starting out on a two-year deal at Bath, is more than a rugby tough nut. Beneath his massive frame is a thoughtful mind – and he has plenty to say.

Not that that should come as a surprise. As well as international honours, Attwood has an honours degree in philosophy and physics. And while we don’t have time to talk Descartes or Schrodinger’s Cat (although I suspect he’d take a question about either in his stride), Attwood covers plenty of ground – including his pubic area.

Firstly, I want to know whether he’s fit.

“The knee’s in good shape,” he says, referring to the problem that ended his hopes of a World Cup berth.

“But I’ve had something called osteitis pubis – an inflammation of the joint at the front of the pelvis – and that’s been the main issue.”

While this sounds like the sort of malady guaranteed to get schoolboys giggling in a lower-fifth biology class, it’s been far from a laughing matter for the second row.

Attwood picked up the condition while training with England during the Six Nations in February. It refused to go away and the problem came to a head in June.

“When England had my knee scanned they had a look at the pelvis as well and there was more of an issue there then initially thought,” he explains.

“The only solution is rest, and I’ve been limited in what I’ve been able to do.”

The condition has forced Attwood to train in fits and starts, with the inflammation flaring up whenever he overdoes things. But he remains cautiously optimistic of being fit enough to make his competitive debut for Bath in the season’s curtain-raiser at Newcastle on Saturday.

The 24-year-old moved to Bath in May following spells at West Country rivals Bristol and Gloucester. And with Bath stalwart Danny Grewcock having hung up his boots at the end of last season, much has been made of Attwood being the club’s next ‘enforcer’ – although he insists he will be his own man at The Rec.

“I’m a bit of a lump and I like to throw myself around a bit and people draw parallels,” he says. “The same sort of thing happened when I was called up to the England squad, with people comparing me to Martin Johnson. There is a character like that in most teams.

“But we’ve a new group of players at Bath and a slightly different game plan. There is a new way of thinking.

“I’m very much here to be Dave Attwood and the people running the club feel Dave Attwood will be someone who can help get the club going in the right direction.

“I don’t see it as me being the person who Danny was, because we are not the same player. It’s dangerous to start trying to live up to people’s expectations. I’m going to be who I am.”

There is a blend of defiance and clear-thinking in what Attwood says. There is an undertow of authority too – and he is frank that he has moved to Bath with the intention of establishing himself as one of the club’s leaders.

“As a reasonably young player just coming into the meat of his career, I want to feel like I am able to take the reins a bit,” he says. “I want to be somebody who other people in the squad look to.”

Away from the field, Attwood and his partner are setting about renovating a house on the west side of the city. The place, he admits, is currently a mess of knocked-through walls, but he has big plans. And while he is passionate about transforming his newly acquired bricks and mortar into something special, so too does he see the scope for a title-winning transformation at his new team.

“It’s an opportunity to make something happen,” he said.

“With Bath, there is something of the unknown and there is certainly a great expectancy about what this club can achieve. That’s very exciting for a young player.”

And then he’s off again, this time to a meeting at the club’s headquarters. Maybe, if his dog behaves, I’ll get on to Descartes the next time I speak to this renaissance man of English rugby.

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