Ellis unfazed by Parisse as Bath bid to end 9-year wait for trophy
UNSUNG flanker Tom Ellis aims to complete a stellar conversion from second to back row by helping Bath end their nine-year silverware drought.
Todd Blackadder’s side face a daunting Challenge Cup semi-final against Stade Francais in Paris next weekend – Sergio Parrisse and all – but former England U20s star Ellis views it as an opportunity to enhance his burgeoning reputation as a No.6.
Ellis, 22, told TRP: “Stade have got their own reasons for doing well and clearly it’s a game that provides challenges, with a hostile crowd and guys like Parisse against us, but it will be an exciting opportunity for us to deal with.
“We’re determined to win silverware and we’re looking very dangerous in attack now, so it’s a great time to go up against a top French team.
“We made our quarterfinal against Brive more difficult than we should have, but we hadn’t won for a month before that. We had a few demons in our heads but got past them and played some good rugby.
“We’ve had injuries this year, particularly in our front row, but guys have stood up and our pack is going well now, and with the attacking threats we’ve got we’re desperate to win a trophy to build on into next season.”
Ellis was part of the Maro Itoje-led England U20s squad that lifted the 2014 Junior World Cup but was cruelly denied meaningful participation after damaging the medial ligament early in their first pool match.
“My dad was flying down for the second game so I ended up sleeping in a double bed with him in a hotel for the rest of the tournament, which wasn’t ideal, but at least I got to share the excitement of seeing the guys winning it,” Ellis recalls.
Since then Ellis has become one of many youngsters to emerge from Bath’s academy and, after switching to the back row last year, he has featured in 18 league games this season alongside another England hopeful, Zach Mercer.
Ellis explained: “Toby Booth, our forwards coach, suggested last year that if I wanted to get to the top level internationally, back row would be the position because there’s a limit to what you can achieve as a 6ft 4in (1.93m) lock.
“Since then I’ve dropped from 123kg (19st 4lb) to 113kg (17st 8lb) but gained extra fitness and mobility and now see myself as a No.6 with the flexibility to go into the second row.
“The transition’s gone well and Todd Blackadder is a DoR who pushes guys through. He’s done that with me and Zach.
“Zach’s not just filled in for us, he’s been the main man for England U20s and is being talked about for the Test squad. If Eddie Jones looks to filter in a couple of U20s, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got the call.”
While Bath boast experienced back row campaigners in Francois Louw and Taulupe Faletau, the arrival of Sam Underhill from Ospreys next season throws up the intriguing possibility of an all-English back row.
Ellis added: “It’s great to have a young English spine and Sam’s arrival will enhance that. Hopefully, we can all play together for a number of years and bring success to Bath.”
Enjoying life in back row: Bath flanker Tom Ellis