Aim for clar­ity within at­tack­ing game­plan

Bath Chronicle - - SPORT - Daniel Evans Head of Sport @daniel­e­vans28 | 01225 322300 [email protected]­plc.com

Bath Rugby’s game­plan. Do the play­ers know it? If they don’t, why not? If they do, why don’t they al­ways play to it? These are all ques­tions the coaches and squad asked them­selves on Mon­day morn­ing at Far­leigh House, when they re­viewed the 7-7 home draw with Sale Sharks. That per­for­mance, fol­low­ing a woe­ful dis­play in de­feat to New­cas­tle Fal­cons, has made for some bru­tally hon­est con­ver­sa­tions to en­sure ev­ery­one is “on the same page”. Game­plans are tweaked de­pend­ing on op­po­si­tion and play­ing con­di­tions, but Bath have spe­cific struc­tures and phase pat­terns in cer­tain ar­eas of the field that should be con­sis­tent, es­pe­cially given they have been work­ing on them since July. Against Sale, when they had two-thirds of pos­ses­sion and ter­ri­tory yet didn’t score a point un­til the 73rd minute, play­ers didn’t stick to the plan. Given Bath have only won three out of 14 matches, that is con­cern­ing for ev­ery­one in­volved and those watch­ing from the stands. The search for “clar­ity” is made all the more ur­gent by the visit of the Euro­pean and Pro14 cham­pi­ons Le­in­ster to the Rec in the Cham­pi­ons Cup on Satur­day. Di­rec­tor of rugby Todd Black­ad­der said: “We had a re­ally good dis­cus­sion to­day around align­ment, get­ting ev­ery­one on the same page and mak­ing sure that we’re re­ally clear in our sys­tems. “When we were watch­ing the game yes­ter­day it was re­ally ev­i­dent that we’re not. We’ve got peo­ple in two minds and it was re­ally to get down to the guts of what the hell is go­ing on. “When I talk about align­ment and clar­ity, I mean get­ting ev­ery­one on the same page be­cause we missed so many at­tack­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties against Sale. “Boys have got to take re­spon­si­bil­ity and drive that. There’s no ex­cuses for that. “There’s been enough of them and it’s time for ac­tion. We’ve been talk­ing about that for the past cou­ple of weeks.” Char­lie Ewels was cap­tain against the Sharks and is part of the play­ers’ se­nior lead­er­ship group. He be­lieves they do know the plan, but for rea­sons in­clud­ing a lack of con­fi­dence not ev­ery­one is stick­ing to it on a week­end. “I couldn’t sit here and ques­tion any­body’s work rate,” he said. “I can ques­tion how we’re play­ing the game at times, from what we’ve said we’re go­ing to do in the week then go­ing off script on game days. “We’ve been do­ing this now [prac­tis­ing the game plan] for four or five months. Things have been tweaked but they haven’t changed. “If you lose a few games or lose con­fi­dence then, for the best of in­ten­tions, ev­ery­one wants to do bet­ter and win games but some­times peo­ple try to find that an­swer. “Ac­tu­ally, the an­swer is do­ing what we do re­ally well. When you’re win­ning and you’ve got con­fi­dence that nat­u­rally comes. The se­cond you lose that, you can of­ten find your­self in these sit­u­a­tions.” Ewels, an Eng­land in­ter­na­tional who is ma­ture be­yond his 23 years, says the squad need to keep trust­ing and be­liev­ing and im­prove­ments will come. He added: “If you’re off script you end up work­ing harder, so when you do have the ball you’re less ef­fec­tive and it can be that neg­a­tive down­ward spi­ral.” Be­fore the sea­son started, at­tack coach Gir­van Dempsey was ex­cited by the ta­lent in the backs and the po­ten­tial the whole squad had to pro­duce a dan­ger­ous and, cru­cially, var­ied at­tack. He knows all about po­tency; hav­ing been the backs coach at Le­in­ster for three years. Now five months into his Bath ten­ure, how does he as­sess the at­tack so far? “I think ‘mixed’ is prob­a­bly the word that springs to mind,” Dempsey said. “I thought against Wasps [a 35-35 Cham­pi­ons Cup draw] we at­tacked re­ally well and scored some ex­cel­lent tries. “Like­wise, against Toulouse [a 22-20 loss] we showed el­e­ments of what we were ca­pa­ble of and didn’t cap­i­talise on op­por­tu­ni­ties and take the re­sult. “You look at those two games and in terms of the con­text of the com­pe­ti­tion we’re go­ing into now, it would have shown a very dif­fer­ent out­look and Le­in­ster would have had a dif­fer­ent task com­ing here on Satur­day.” Dempsey be­lieves the key to good at­tack stems from a fun­da­men­tal area of the game. “The key things are around our break­down work,” he said. “From my ex­pe­ri­ence of Le­in­ster and Ire­land in par­tic­u­lar, they pride them­selves mas­sively on their break­down work. “If you can sort out your break­down it al­lows your game to flow a lot bet­ter. If you al­low the op­po­si­tion to dic­tate the pace of the ball you’re al­ways go­ing to strug­gle to gen­er­ate mo­men­tum. “Be­yond that, there is a bit of [an is­sue] un­der­stand­ing around some of our sys­tem, which has chopped and changed with per­son­nel. It’s just mak­ing sure we have real clar­ity around that.”

PIC­TURES: Dan Mul­lan/getty Im­ages

Fred­die Burns con­verses with the crowd dur­ing Bath’s draw with Sale Sharks, their third stale­mate of the cam­paign

Char­lie Ewels and Jono Ross com­pete for a li­ne­out

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