David Trick, club president and Bath and England legend gave us his views on all things Bath - past and present, prior to Sundays Heineken Cup game against Montpellier.
Bath v Montpellier is a fixture very few would have even dreamt of back in the 1980's and yet with the introduction of the Heineken Cup, European matches have featured in the Bath fixture list for several years and are always eagerly anticipated. The only French fixture I can recall during my time as a player was when Bath played Toulon which coincided with my Wedding Day and my wife of 15 minutes decided my presence at the reception was more important than my participation in the match – fair enough I suppose.
However, I did experience French opposition and indeed French hospitality early in my rugby career when I was selected for a 'Sandy Sanders XV' (past President of the Rugby Football Union) against Paris University Club (PUC). I was 18 years of age and had just started playing for Bath when I received the invitation to play for Sandy's team in Paris. We assembled at Heathrow Airport and it became apparent the only person I didn't know was me; everyone else had a famous recognisable face from the world of international rugby. On arrival at the Hotel Saint Jacques the rooming list was read out and I found myself sharing with Andy Ripley. Many readers of this article will recall Andy sadly died last year from Prostate Cancer. He was a 'special' character from the world of Rugby Union. He was a talented athlete, standing 6'6" tall who had genuine speed which many backs of his era envied. He played for Rosslyn Park throughout his career during which time he gained 24 caps for England and was a member of the victorious British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 1974.
Following the match on Saturday, the result is not relevant to this story, (we lost) there was a gala dinner held in a massive sports hall with both teams attending, in addition to hundreds of 'stuffed shirts' and 'alikado's'. At a certain point during the evening Chris Ralston, a giant former England second row, walked behind Andy, who was seated at a table, and poured a bottle of water over his head, (Andy did not flinch, he didn't even break the conversation he was involved in).
Several minutes later Andy left his seat, walked behind Chris who was now seated at his table and poured a carafe of red wine over his head, Chris to his credit didn't flinch either. What followed is almost indescribable, the biggest food fight the world has ever seen, absolute mayhem. Trays of deserts which the boys found behind a curtain were hurled across the room. Two of the top table dignitaries were seen stripped to the waist holding giant round cheeses in front of their stomachs and running into each other. Bowls of spinach were poured onto the floor creating a green 'skating rink'. To be honest it was an appalling scene, one which I observed but did not participate in. Inevitably it wasn't long before a few players found the fire extinguishers. It was at this moment I received a tap on the shoulder from Andy, he looked down at me from his great height and said, "Now is the time to leave", which we did, via a side exit into the Parisian night. By all accounts we left almost five minutes before the Gendarmerie arrived on the scene (by which time Andy and I were having a quiet beer in a bar near our hotel).
So what did Andy teach me?
It's all about timing and positioning, a valuable life skill, make sure when the muck hits the fan you are no longer in the vicinity.
The following day we were due to fly back to Heathrow on a mid morning flight. I awoke with a considerable hangover, looked across the room towards Andy's bed which had been vacated. I then looked at the bedside clock and realised I had exactly five minutes to get dressed, pack my bag and make my way to the airport (40 minutes away!). Funnily enough I missed my flight and ended up getting a seat on a plane departing later that evening.
Several weeks after the trip, Bath were playing Rosslyn Park and I managed to have a chat with Andy prior to the kick off. My first question was to ask why he had left me in bed inParis. Andy's response was to explain how the previous night during the food fight he had removed me from a situation that was quite obviously getting 'out of hand' indeed, a situation I had no control over and one I had probably never encountered before. He had taught me a valuable lesson. He went on to say, "as for getting out of bed, it's something I assume you have done almost every day of your short life and not a thing you should require my help with", In a nutshell, it was my responsibility.
This was another valuable lesson delivered by the great man and taken on board by a young David Trick.