Bath Rugby legend Simon Halliday recently spoke to Club supporters at our 150th anniversary Q&A, which takes place in the Swift Half at every home game this season. Now the Chairman of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), Halliday shone for both Club and Country. For England, he won two Grand Slams and was a member of the squad that reached the World Cup final in 1991.
Who were your key influences when you arrived at the Club?
Gareth Chilcott and Roger Spurrell: When I first got here, Chilcott was serving a three-month ban, and Roger Spurrell, who’s not been well recently but is happily on the mend, had a broken jaw after an altercation with a Welsh second row forward somewhere over the bridge – either Neath or Swansea. So it was a few months before I actually met the both of them: two of the hardest men who have ever played the game, and actually the heart and soul of the Club. If you had to look at two people who started the Bath phenomenon, as I call it, in the early Eighties, when we started to win the trophies, it was Coochie and Roger Spurrell because they never took a backward step. And when you’re playing against the big Welsh teams who were very, very difficult to beat in those days, you needed hard men up front so we could score the tries.
What made your team so successful?
Perhaps that we hated losing? We developed such a sense of family, of looking after each other, that we decided it didn’t matter who we were playing, we’d treat them with the same level of respect and if we were going to beat them by 40 points or by one point. It didn’t matter. It wasn’t just not losing: I remember we were playing London Welsh down here, winning by 40 points, and they were giving us plenty of grief in the last 15 minutes, and we just vowed we weren’t going to let them score a try. And we didn’t. That was the kind of attitude we had. I never actually lost a game on the Rec in eight or nine years, and lot of guys in my era could probably count on one hand how many games they lost here. It’s because we regarded the Rec as our home and nobody was going to come here and take victory from us here.
Are there any similarities between your team and today’s?
There are direct comparisons now, because this team operates off quick ball, they look for space. Those are things we did. This team has suffered reverses – the final last year, for example – and we went through some of that as well. We went up to Leicester before our great run of wins and they gave us a 30-point stuffing. Jack Rowell said to us, ‘Never, ever forget what those guys have just done to you. You think you’re the best, but you’re not’. We took that away with us and we used that defeat to make sure in the years to come we understood what it took to win. You’ve got to have those kinds of defeats to build and learn as a team, and I think that’s where this side is right now. They haven’t forgotten Saracens last year, and I’m sure they won’t forget it for years to come, but they won’t let it happen to them again.
What are your views on England’s recent World Cup campaign?
You’ve got to put your best players on the field, and you’ve got to give them the chance to play their best. I think those are the two things that didn’t happen in this World Cup. I played in the ’91 World Cup. We didn’t win, we got pipped in the final as everyone knows, but our best team was on the field and we were given licence to play to our best ability – and I don’t think that happened here. I’m thinking of guys like Kyle Eastmond, who absolutely should have been involved, there’s no doubt in my mind.
You’ll more than likely see some past players at the Rec today. Who are you hoping not to bump into?
Chilcott gets me in a bear hug every time I see him and breaks a few more bones I didn’t know I had. Simon Jones, who some of you may remember, is not actually the most feted player down here but he was one of those people that sparked our good fortunes, and he had a little evil glint in his eye. He was always very dangerous on the field. But the thing about Bath ex-players is we all loved each other, whichever walk of life we came from – and by God there were a few different walks of life – we were united by rugby.
Continue exploring our 150th Anniversary pages.