Ex­iled Bath en­forcer in bat­tle for fresh deal

The Rugby Paper - - Feature - DAVID BARNES

“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.”

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

Re­freshed: Dave Attwood is back with Bath look­ing to futher his Test claim

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.