Exiled Bath enforcer in battle for fresh deal
“I think Eddie Jones sees merit in my strengths... it’s whether I can convince him that those strengths are important enough”
Dave Attwood describes himself as a traditional kind of lock. In other words, he loves a scrap and the rougher the better. Which is just as well perhaps because he is now facing a serious fight to win a new contract with Bath, to whom he reports tomorrow.
And he will be delighted, he says, if he can accompany his signature on an extended deal with more England caps to add to the 24 he already has.
He had been in limbo during a long tug-of-war for his services between French club Toulon, whom he joined on loan in January, and Bath, who insisted he served the last year of his contract with them.
He has proved his fitness in the Top 14 after winning a 16-month battle against a a knee injury incurred during an England training session in Portugal.
But nothing prepared him for the emotional shock of discovering in mid-winter he would be unable to play for Bath, the club he had loved for seven years.
Attwood told The Rugby Paper: “When I was pronounced fit in January, I was very much looking forward to my return for Bath.
“I felt like an important cog there and was looking forward to help push towards the end of the season with them. I was incredibly disappointed at not being able to return straight into the mix after being sidelined through injury.
“In the space of a week or so, I was having a medical and meeting new team-mates at Toulon.”
Attwood was so ready for the fray, in fact, that he was almost awesome in the nine games he played at Toulon.
He added: “There was no disagreement about my ability to play top-class rugby. That is why I ended up in Toulon at the business end of the table in one of the most physical leagues in the world.”
Precisely why Attwood was obliged to make a move that turned out so successful for both himself and Toulon remains a mystery he is unwilling to clarify.
At 31, though, he does need to know what lies ahead now a juicy long-term deal with Toulon is no longer available to him. He revealed: “Bath haven’t offered me a contract extension beyond the end of the season. It is something I mentioned before I left for France, but they didn’t jump at the opportunity.
“Perhaps they feel the need to be reassured. I could understand their reservations at this point given my situation.”
So he will throw his 6ft 7ins, 19 st frame behind a massive effort to secure Bath at least a play-off place this season and his own future at the same time.
An old-fashioned lock? Attwood explained: “I am at my best in set pieces, mauling and brawling. Modern locks are more rounded footballers, often playing in the back row as well. I’m terrible at football.
“That’s why French rugby suited me so well from the start. They have bigger collisions and less ball in play.
“There is more emphasis on scrums and mauls which are particular strengths of mine. The contact area is one I relish and the Toulon fans took a shine to me quite quickly.
“It was a great experience and working with prople like Ma’a Nonu, Mathieu Bastareaud and Juan FernandezLobbe was brilliant. And Semi Radradra, the winger, is one of the best players I have ever seen.
“I refused to let him watch our line-outs in case he came and did that better than us as well.
“Hopefully, I will bring some of what I learned in Toulon back with me for the current campaign. I think we have a realistic chance of pushing for the play-offs and, if we can keep a relatively clean injury sheet, we may be able to push further. “We have some big names in the Champions Cup and I will relish the opportunity to be playing Leinster and Toulouse.” Whether England boss Eddie Jones will be impressed by Attwood during those highlevel encounters ahead is still open to question. But Attwood says: “Now I am back in the country, I would certainly say I am available if the phone call comes. “I haven’t spoken to Eddie Jones since the injury, but I think he sees merit in my strengths. It’s whether I can convince him that those strengths are important enough.”
He may have a voice in the England camp in scrum coach Neal Hatley, left, who worked with him at Bath and with whom he still chats.
In the meantime, Attwood is just relieved that his immediate future has been resolved. He said: “The overwhelming feeling was one of uncertainty. There were conversations about whether the move to Toulon was to become permanent.
“But negotiations go on well away from the player. So I was left for a long time not knowing where I would be living and playing my rugby. I am pleased now to have some clarity.”
Refreshed: Dave Attwood is back with Bath looking to futher his Test claim