In the first of a new series, Last Word on Rugby will be refocusing attention on the Gallagher Premiership ahead of the 2021/22 season. Under the spotlight to start is Bath Rugby, who will be hoping for a much better campaign 2020/21, where they finished seventh.
Several dependable squad members have departed, including Elliot Stooke, Ross Batty and Henry Thomas. Bath may also come to regret Zach Mercer’s move to Montpellier.
However, the most significant loss is Rhys Priestland, who made our top five biggest Gallagher Premiership departures. His goalkicking has been a major source of points for Bath when their star-studded backline was not been able to produce the goods.
Key signing for Bath Rugby 2021/22
It is impossible to name anyone but Danny Cipriani here. Not only because Bath have added very few new names for next season, but because of the whole package that comes with Cipriani. Whilst it was announced he would join Bath back in March, the 33 year-old has yet to be seen in blue, black and white.
Cipriani is fortunate that he will have Ben Spencer inside him to cover the goal-kicking duties, allowing him to concentrate on unleashing the backline in the way that saw him named Premiership Player of the Year in 2019.
Most valuable players
Bath’s main issue for several years has been not getting full use of their most high-profile and expensive assets. The last two seasons have been even worse for international player absences, partly explaining Bath’s fall from fourth to seventh. Having internationals like Taulupe Faletau, Anthony Watson and Sam Underhill is all well and good, when they are actually wearing a Bath shirt on the pitch.
Therefore, it is the likes of Ruaridh McConnochie, Josh McNally and Ben Spencer who offer the greatest value; international standard players available all season long. The all-England front row of Beno Obano, Tom Dunn and Will Stuart is also a prize asset.
How will Bath Rugby line up?
As mentioned, there have been minimal new signings. So we should see a continuation of a strong pack in front of a backline capable of real magic.
The difference this season could be that 9-10 axis of Spencer and Cipriani. Both are known for exciting play and an ability to unlock defences. Whether they are able to do so together will probably define Bath’s season. Barring injury, they will have plenty of time to build a strong partnership with no international distractions.
Bath Rugby 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership focus
On paper, Bath have one of the strongest squads in the league. However, trophies and success have not followed. Last season can be partially discounted due to the distortion of canceled games, but make no mistake, management will expect a top-four challenge at least.
Last Word on Rugby will be assessing each Gallagher Premiership team in turn. Have your say on LWOS Boards, Twitter @LWOS_rugby and our Facebook page.
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