Bath take on Newcastle Falcons in the Aviva Premiership this Friday, hoping to continue stunning fans with running rugby. They no longer have a continental trophy to target after they lost to Leinster in the European Champions Cup quarter-finals, but according to one of their longest-serving backs there is more to come from Bath’s bright young things.
Winger Matt Banahan – who spoke with Rugby World about current cover star Jonathan Joseph – insists that the three livewires of George Ford, Joseph and Anthony Watson can go on to impress on the biggest stages in world rugby.
“All three of them can definitely become world beaters,” the winger says. “They showed as much in the Six Nations, in glimpses. To have that ability at such a young age is impressive – these guys have bedded in with England and they have absolutely no fear.
“The way we want to play at Bath is with aggressive attack and they fit into that. Anthony can step anybody, JJ doesn’t need any space to work in and George is only 22 but he’s of the best fly-halves at running a game. I try my best to give these guys some advice, but with their natural talent I really don’t know what to tell them!”
Bath may have lost to Leinster, but Ford created two brilliant tries by attacking the line. According to Banahan, Bath are thriving because their game plan allows risk takers to thrive and because players are encouraged to go “off-key” fans can enjoy moments like Joseph taking on a Toulouse defence, grubber kicking and collecting it himself to score. “That’s not in the script!” laughs Banahan. The last thing anyone wants, he claims, is for that spark to be coached out of the youngsters.
Because anything can happen, though, Banahan refuses to believe that Bath’s next two games will be straightforward. They thrashed London Welsh and have Newcastle and then London Irish, but the run of three was not something Bath had specifically targetted.
“We know anything can happen in rugby. You can win by ten points or you can win by two. Newcastle are playing extremely well at the moment. But you can look to the opportunity we’ve got (making the play-offs), because they don’t come along every year.”