Bath Rugby Under-18s will return to action this weekend when they face Bristol Bears at Dings Crusaders RFC on Saturday.
It has been a long wait for some game time for the club’s younger crop with Academy Manager Craig Lilley pleased with the maturity of the players over the 14-month period and is excited to see what they have learned put into practice.
“What we talk about a lot is the game is always the biggest feedback,” he said.
“To get that feedback to launch us into a new week will be good for us as we’ve been training a while with no games.
“You end up session to session building on what you have done previously which has led to some great learning. Having said that, having games and a purpose at the end of the week is going to be crucial for the boys.
“It gives an extra sense of motivation to go out and perform and the feedback they will get from that is better than just training every week. There have been some great training moments from that block as well.
“It gives our Under-18s boys a great opportunity to put on the Bath jersey, some of them in their final year and also gives us an opportunity to see some of the younger boys play come through who haven’t played in 14 months which is really exciting.”
In a year of lockdowns, face-to-face meetings, training sessions and matches were reduced to next to nothing at times and everyone in the Bath Rugby Academy needed to adapt in order to continue their development.
It was a completely new scenario for the players and coaches to come to terms with, but Lilley feels the adjustment has aided everyone’s learning.
“For coaches, the amount of learning that has taken place, because you haven’t had to work game to game, has been enormous,” he said.
“You can go on a journey where you can really explore things in a lot more detail without the worry of having to deliver on a Saturday. I think the depth of how and what they deliver has been really enhanced.
“It’s been about how we best engage the players. We’re very similar in terms of language and our principles we deliver, but I guess what we’ve had to do this year more than ever is put those principles and messages out but addressing them differently to ensure the boys are engaged in what we’re doing, and I think they have done that really well.
“We have done that with the way we have connected with the boys on zoom; we have done that with the way we’ve analysed stuff and sent things out to the boys to learn off field as well as on field. There has been loads of good stuff to make sure we maximise their development.
“From a player point of view, you’re a lot fresher week to week going into training as you haven’t had that match on a Saturday. You can really explore the boundaries of working physically and I believe that has been really beneficial.”