It’s been a big year for Bath Rugby’s Josh Bayliss and there could be more in store, as the 19-year-old heads to Georgia for the World Rugby U20 Championship today.
Bayliss broke into the first team this season making his debut in the Anglo-Welsh Cup against Leicester Tigers in November. The back rower made further appearances in the competition against Scarlets and Gloucester underlining his undoubted potential.
On his first team breakthrough, Bayliss said: “I’ve absolutely loved it – it’s been crazy, but everything I could have imagined and more. I wasn’t expecting it (to make his debut against Leicester), but it was obviously a nice a surprise. Undoubtedly I was a little bit more nervous and especially that it was a full stadium, I’d never experienced that before.
“It definitely confirmed that it is something that I want to be doing in the future and I’d love to be playing in those big games in the next couple of years.”
Bayliss’ experience of the first team has given him the motivation to push on ready for the new campaign. With the likes of Zach Mercer, Beno Obano and Levi Douglas featuring regularly in the Aviva Premiership and Europe, Bayliss is hoping to seize his opportunity when it comes.
“To see the Academy players get the chance and step up is really encouraging for young players like me. Those boys (Zach, Beno and Levi) have all done unbelievably well with their opportunities and that’s what it’s all about. When I get the chance, I’ve got to do everything I can to take it.”
It has also been a memorable season on the international scene for the back rower, helping England U20 to the Grand Slam in the Six Nations. Bayliss notched a double in the 46-0 bonus-point victory over Italy, joining his Club teammate Mercer on the scoresheet in the third game of the campaign. The Bath duo then led the Red Roses to six wins out of six, with a hard-fought 14-10 victory over Ireland.
Next up for Bayliss and Mercer is a trip to Georgia where England U20 will kick-off their defence of the World Rugby U20 Championship against Samoa, Wales and Australia. Whilst Bayliss admits England may have a target on their backs, he is quick to acknowledge that past triumphs count for nothing going into another major tournament.
“It was very special (to win the Grand Slam) out in Ireland on St Patrick's Day. To cling on in the last minute was hugely memorable and one of the best moments of my rugby career so far. We’ve got a great bunch of boys this year and a really competitive team, so hopefully we can go and do a job in Georgia. It’s going to be very hard, but we can’t wait to test ourselves against the best in the world.
On being favourites, Bayliss added; “Potentially, but the way we’re viewing it is that is that it’s a separate tournament. Whilst it’s great what we did in the Six Nations, we’ve got to start again and start from square one. It’s the World Championship, so we can’t take anything for granted.”
Back in the West Country, Bayliss has benefited from the wealth of back row experience in the Bath ranks. With the established internationals such as Taulupe Faletau and Francois Louw, as well as a wealth of other talent, Bayliss admits there’s no better place to continue his development.
“It’s been really helpful for me this year having so many experienced back rowers in the Club, who are all happy to impart their wisdom on you. They’ve all been there and done it, so they know what it takes, which is really useful.
“It’s not just talking directly to them either, but watching what they do and how they conduct themselves is next level. That’s where I’ve got to aim to get to. It’s a long way off, but it’s definitely something to aspire to. It’s great to have them around and set the example really.”
The ex-Millfield pupil attributes the success of the Bath Academy setup this year to the environment created at the Club and the opportunity to lock horns with his teammates on a daily basis on the training ground.
“I probably didn’t appreciate it (training with the first team) as much at the start of the season. Being able to train with everyone together, it shows you what’s required and pushes you, which is what you need. That’s probably one of the reasons why the Academy has been so successful this season with people like Zach, Beno and Levi. We get to train with the first team all the time and those boys have shown that if you train well, you’ll get your opportunity.”
Bayliss is hoping to kick on once again next season, but rather than putting any undue pressure on making the starting line-up, his concentration remains on enjoying his rugby like he has done over the last year.
“I’m going to approach (the new season) in that I’m going to have as much fun as possible and enjoy my rugby, which I’ve been doing this year. Nothing really changes - I’ll just go out there, take it game by game and be grateful for any opportunities that I get really.
“You might only get one chance, but if you can prove your worth, it could be the start of good things.”
To see Josh Bayliss and the rest of the Bath Rugby team in action next season, make sure you renew your season ticket by Monday 29th May.