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19 September 2012, 2:31pm

Focus on.... Lee Mears

Position: Hooker
Honours: England (39 caps)
Date of birth: 5th Mar 1979
Birthplace: Torquay
Height: 1.75m (5' 8")
Weight: 100kg (15st 10lb)

Last weekend marked the first home game of the 2012/13 season for Bath Rugby. It also saw Lee Mears make his 250th appearance in the Blue, Black and White.

"It's lovely to hit such a milestone. You look back and work out how many games that is over the seasons, and you think of all the big games you've been involved in, all the mates you've made and played with along the way and it's actually a very humbling experience.

"As a kid I used to sit and dream of getting my first cap for Bath, imagine what it would feel like to run out at the Rec, and so to have done that, and to wear the jersey over 250 times is an achievement I'm very proud of and am very grateful for."

A very popular player amongst the Rec faithful, did it add to the experience for Lee that the milestone was reached in front of the home crowd?

"The crowd last Saturday were amazing both before and during the game. I knew I was roundabout that number, but only found out on Thursday it was 250 and didn't really think much of it at the time. But then people were texting and messaging me in the lead up to the game, and it made me realise it was a pretty special thing.

"Winning the game was always first and foremost for me – it's always a big clash against Wasps, and we kept trying to pull away but they've got so much gas in their backs they kept pinning us back. It wasn't until after the game had finished and we'd got the win that I really managed to savour the experience of it all."

In a career spanning over a decade with Bath, what memories does Lee have of his first game?

"I remember my debut was against Saracens at Vicarage Road, I think in 2000. I'd joined the Club in 1997, but with the likes of Mark Regan, Freddie Mendez and Andy Long – amongst others – around, it took me a while to get on the teamsheet! They were all in front of me, but they taught me loads.

"Of the game itself, I remember getting a whack on the head early on from one of their big French players! They had a variety of stars in the line-up at the time, so it was a big game to be involved in for a debut."

Most players have games or ground that stick out more than others – what would Lee count among his?

"I think my favourite ground, other than the Rec of course, would be Welford Road. It's always a great place to play – you get a real atmosphere there, and playing Leicester is always a tough, physical game. Having said that, no one particular game stands out at Welford Road as a favourite, mainly because the ones we've won that stick in the memory were always over the road at the Walkers Stadium!"

Having been with the Club so long, there have been many changes during Lee's time – what does he think about some of the more recent ones?

"I think moving to Farleigh House, getting all the training and rugby facilities in one place, has probably set the biggest precedent and whilst the last couple of season haven't been the best for us, the foundations are there and there's definitely a feeling it's building towards something good, especially with the Rec – I've been waiting and hoping for development since I got here in '97, and it does feel like we're closer than we have been in the past with regards to that."

And of the new coaching set-up that arrived over the summer?

"I'm really enjoying being coached by the team we've got in now. I've been coached by some great guys in my time at Bath – the likes of John Connolly, Andy Robinson, Mike Foley and Brian Ashton, and they all had international experience which was great.

"We've got that range of experience again with Gary and his team, and they really work well together, bouncing ideas off each other. There's a real unity about them – they all know and believe in the direction we're going as a team, which is great, and it's reflecting in our training, and starting to come through in our performances."
It's not just for Bath that Lee has impressed over the years – the hooker also went on tour with the British and Irish Lions in 2009, and amassed 42 caps for England. Following on from the tour of South Africa this summer, Lee announced he would be retiring from international rugby.

"It just seemed that the time was right. Hooker is always such a competitive position, and there is some really good young talent in the country at the moment. England are at that stage where they are building for the future, looking towards the next World Cup, and whilst I'd love to still be playing then, you just never know what might happen. Hopefully the experience I've had and have been able to pass onto the youngsters has helped them, and I think there are exciting times ahead for that group of players."

 

Quickfire Q&A:

What did you listen to on the way to training today? The Chris Moyles Show.

Who is your favourite non-rugby team? Aston Villa.

Favourite movie and why? The Shawshank Redemption – it's a quality film, where the good guy wins in the end. That or The Usual Suspects.

Favourite getaway spot? Barbados.

What would you be if you weren't a rugby player? A fighter pilot.

Any superstitions before a game? Not really – although I always put my right boot on first.

Toughest opponent you've ever faced? Bismarck du Plessis

Worst dress person in the Bath squad? Well, it used to be Barnsey, but I'll say Tommy Heathcote. It shows my age really – I know he's actually really fashionable, I just don't understand red chinos!

Beers with the boys or candlelit dinner with the mrs? Dinner with the Mrs.

Who or what always puts a smile on your face? Polite people.

If you won the Lottery what would be the first thing you bought? A holiday home in Barbados, or a private jet to take me there!

If you were picking your dream rugby team who would be your captain? Phil "the Blouse" de Glanville

Who has the best banter in the Club? Mikey Claassens

If you were stranded on a desert island which teammate would you take with you and why? Dave Attwood, he's got the DIY skills. And if his banter killed me then I could probably live off him for a while!

What would you sing at karaoke and who would be your backup? I'd have Nick Abendanon – he's really good at rapping, so we'd do something with lots of rapping and a bit of singing – Black Eyed Peas maybe?!

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