David Trick, club president and Bath and England legend gives us his views on all things Bath - past and present.
I was talking to a few Leicester Tigers' fans last season at Welford Road and was surprised to hear them say they didn't consider Bath a major threat or the fixture to be a 'big match'. Initially I assumed they were merely trying to 'wind me up' with their confident chat. As the discussion continued it became apparent they were supporters who had become involved with club in recent years. They were not around when Leicester initially ruled the domestic rugby world in the late 70's and early 80's. Neither were they aware of Bath relieving them of that mantle in the mid 80's through to the mid 90's. A period during which Bath won ten John Player / Pilkington Cup finals at Twickenham and six league titles (now the Aviva Premiership), completing the cup and league double on four occasions. Let's look at those achievements another way, out of 22 possible trophies Bath Rugby won 16. No English club in history has a record approaching this and yet we were not considered a threat by the Tiger's fans last season. As it happened we lost the match 21-15, (hardly a thrashing) enough to convince the home supporters they were correct in their belief we were not a threat.
Back in the day, when Bath were becoming the dominant force in English Rugby, both teams could boast some famous names, Dusty Hare, Paul Dodge, Les Cusworth, (Sir) Clive Woodward and Nick Youngs (father of Ben) spring to mind from Leicester, matched by John Palmer, Jerry Guscott, Gareth Chilcott, John Hall, Stuart Barnes and Andy Robinson from Bath. The winger opposite me was a lad called Rory Underwood, you may have heard of him; I've tried to forget about him for many years. I knew him as, Rory 'I could run around you in a telephone box' Underwood, (you need confidence to play rugby at a high level, something I was not short of). Rory 'I c r a y i a t b' Underwood and I made our debuts for England 'B' (now England 'A') on the same day at Ravenhill, Belfast against Ireland 'B'. From that moment our careers ran in parallel...for almost three months. He went on to play 85 times for England scoring 49 tries, participated in three World Cups and two British Lions tours. I on the other hand unselfishly devoted myself to Bath Rugby, only allowing the English National team to tempt me away from the Recreation Ground on two occasions!
I wasn't a famous name, but I did have 12 seasons playing rugby for Bath, during which time we were successful and just as important in my mind, we had fun. I look back and can only remember laughing; I was on first name terms with many supporters in the east stand (the flowerpots as it was affectionately known back then) primarily because I was easily distracted and if the match was a bit quiet I would spend my time talking to members of the crowd. I also participated in several overseas tours with Bath which will feature on this page in a future programme!!
I feel Leicester Tigers embraced professionalism in 1995 whilst Bath were caught 'on the hop' taking time to adjust. With a relatively new owner in Bruce Craig, the development of world class facilities at Farleigh House, and a noticeable increase in the resolve amongst the team, I think the pendulum will begin to swing in favour of Bath over the coming seasons and we will once again be a major threat to Leicester, with contests between both clubs perceived as BIG matches by the Leicester supporters. I'm hoping today marks the beginning of the shift in the balance of power.