Bath Rugby scrum-half Chris Cook has risen through the ranks at the Club since entering the Academy five years ago. London Welsh are first to visit the Rec this season, and we caught up with Cook, who spent a large part of last season on loan with Saturday’s challengers.
Going to London Welsh on loan
Last year, being one of four scrum-halves, I wasn’t playing a lot. I asked the coaches, "Do you mind if I go on loan to get some game time?". Fortunately, London Welsh said they needed a nine. I landed in quite a good team and we ended up winning the Championship!
Being the new kid in town
It was great fun. My stepbrother played for London Welsh for two years [number eight Ed Jackson, now at Wasps] so I knew most of the guys through socialising with him. It didn’t feel completely new, and there were about five ex-Bath players there. I felt very much at home straight away.
Will [Spencer, Bath Rugby teammate] arrived on loan at Welsh later than me, and he was desperately unlucky to pull his quad in his first week there. It meant he had to keep coming back to Bath for treatment. But following that spot of bad luck, he really thrived. I thought he was fantastic in the Championship, and hopefully he’ll push through at Bath this year.
I didn’t presume I would be first-choice at all when I went there. In my first three weeks I didn’t play a match: it was very much a case of coming in and earning your spot, which I respect a lot. It’s tough for anybody if somebody new comes into the club and steps over them, and I’d be disappointed here if somebody did that. By the end, thankfully, I had managed to earn my spot.
The training environment was different there, what with it being different people in charge, but it was no less professional than any other Premiership club. It’s nice to be training in the middle of Richmond, which is a lovely area. It was something new and fresh, and for me it was a good change.
London Welsh have had a fair turnaround of players, but the Premiership’s such a tough league that you need big squads now to cope with the physical demands. If you don’t have a big squad, you won’t survive. All the coaches are still the same, most of the backroom staff are the same and I still keep in touch with the physios.
The underdog factor
Everybody thinking that Bristol would get promoted to the Premiership was nice for us at Welsh. We didn’t have a spotlight on us and went about our business in the right way. Almost under the radar, you could say. We didn’t really have any media attention on us so we could just focus solely on our rugby and trying to win, and ultimately that worked for us.
Play as many positions as possible
Last season, I played an A League match for Bath United against Harlequins on the wing. It was an eye-opener for me: I hadn’t played there since I was in school, back when I was really quick! It’s a different game out there: it’s bizarre running away from the breakdowns. It’s all part of learning, though. The advice I always give to kids is to play as many positions as you can when you’re younger.
Winning breeds winning
Winning the Championship did wonders for my confidence, as did winning the A League with Bath United. Not getting selected is tough, as anybody will tell you, so to get the chance to show what I could do and develop my game at Welsh was great. I brought that confidence back here and got selected in the squad for Bath’s first match of the season against Sale Sharks. I’ll keep training hard and hopefully get selected more.