Three players from the Senior Academy will graduate into the Bath Rugby senior squad ahead of the 2021/22 campaign.
Director of Rugby Stuart Hooper said: “We are delighted to be able to welcome Will, Arthur and Kieran into the senior squad.
“Their graduation continues the recent success of the Bath Rugby pathway. We have been really impressed by the current graduates in the squad with homegrown players like Josh Bayliss, Tom de Glanville and Miles Reid progressing to earn international recognition.
“All three are outstanding young men who have already put a huge amount into their time here at Bath. I’ve very excited to see them take this next step and grab the opportunities that lie ahead.
“They are a great example of the hard work and dedication the Academy staff invest into young people every season and we’re looking forward to them thriving in the senior environment.”
WHO ARE THE THREE GRADUATES?
Will Butt has come through the club’s University pathway and has produced some dazzling displays for the University of Bath in BUCS Super Rugby in recent years. The 21-year-old joined Bath Rugby aged 14 and captained the Under-18s in the 2017/18 season. He is a centre who has had an important year in terms of getting to the next step in his career. With no Premiership Rugby Cup or Shield, game time has been limited for Butt but when the opportunity to join Coventry on loan arose, he grasped it with both hands. He was one of the Championship sides standout performers in his six games for them and added a lot to their environment in terms of his leadership skills. During his spell at the Butts Park Arena, Butt equalled a club record for most tries in one second-tier match, scoring four against Jersey Reds.
Arthur Cordwell came into the Senior Academy from Canford School and is a boyhood Bath Rugby fan. He realised his dream of playing in the Premiership for the Blue, Black and White, entering the field as a replacement in a comprehensive victory over Newcastle Falcons in March. The loosehead prop, who played a big part in the squad’s preparations for the remainder of the 2020/21 campaign, has just finished studying a degree in Physics at the University of Bath with the balance of his academic and rugby commitments being carefully managed throughout. Cordwell has had to remain patient for his opportunities but with a good head on his shoulders, he has been able to see the bigger picture and articulate what it takes to get to next level.
Kieran Verden is a tighthead prop who came through the Beechen Cliff pathway into the Senior Academy and made his Premiership debut at the back end of last season in a victory over Worcester Warriors. In 2020/21, he joined the Warriors on a short loan with the club feeling it was the best rugby opportunity for him to get some game time under his belt. He did just that experiencing European rugby for the first time, earning minutes in the Challenge Cup against Pau and Ospreys. It was a great opportunity for Verden who returned to the Rec with the experience of working in a different environment with a different group of players. He has been able to bring back the benefits of his time at Sixways and it has been excellent for his development. Since arriving back at Bath, the 22-year-old has earned a further two caps in the top flight.
WHY IS NOW THE RIGHT TIME FOR THE TRIO TO GRADUATE?
The trio have worked extremely hard to develop their game on the training field, in the gym and through analysis whilst they have been in the pathway.
They have worked hard to develop physically to put themselves in a place where they can go into the senior environment and thrive.
With their academic commitments completed, they do not have the balancing act of their studies and rugby to content with whilst from a rugby point of view, they have demonstrated their readiness to take the next step. Cordwell and Verden have both featured in the Premiership this term and Butt has been one of Coventry’s main players in the Championship.
Academy Manager Craig Lilley said: “Stepping up to the senior squad is where they will inherit more individual responsibility. From an Academy point of view, we provide a learning environment to facilitate their development so when they get to that next step it’s not a big shock to them.
“We challenge and support them all the way through so that the transition is as seamless as possible. We believe Arthur, Kieran and Butty are ready for that change.”
WHAT IS BEHIND THE CLUB’S DECISION TO GRADUATE CERTAIN PLAYERS AND LET OTHERS CONTINUE THEIR DEVELOPMENT IN THE SENIOR ACADEMY?
Whilst in the Senior Academy, all players are encouraged to continue their studies at University and broaden their knowledge away from rugby.
A plan is devised by the staff for each individual player to ensure they have the correct balance for their on and off-field development.
“Remaining in the Senior Academy will give certain players further support with their University commitments and their physical development,” Lilley said.
“The player will still receive the same support as the senior squad with the additional support helping with their annual plans, their pinch point moments at University and will put them in the best place to progress with their rugby.
“Conversations can occur on a rich basis to aid development around the physical, rugby and academic elements of the players who will still get the benefits of training alongside the senior team.
“Decisions around graduates are made with the players’ best intentions at heart as we continue our aim to have a 50% homegrown senior squad interspersed with world class talent by 2023.”
Everyone at Bath Rugby would like to congratulate Will, Arthur and Kieran on their graduation to the senior squad and wish them the best in the next chapter of their journey in Blue, Black and White.
2021/22 BATH RUGBY SENIOR ACADEMY SQUAD