Bath Rugby and Wigan Warriors renew old acquaintances at Bath's magnificent training facility at Farleigh House
Bath Rugby & Wigan Warriors have a connection that goes back many years. At the dawn of the professional era in rugby union in 1996 the 2 clubs met in 2 cross code clashes. The union match being played at Twickenham, which Bath won & the league match played at Manchester City's then ground, Maine Road, which Wigan ran out winners. Wigan's Jason 'Billy Whizz' Robinson then going on to make 13 appearances for Bath, whilst still being a Wigan player. There is a further more personal connection with Bath boss, Mike Ford having been a team mate with Wigan's current boss Shaun Wane.
Much has changed for Bath in the 18 years since those two matches & the era of professional rugby union. Bath were then still known as 'Bath Football Club', though the professional era soon saw that changed to 'Bath Rugby'. On the pitch during those two matches, the physical difference & fitness of the players was evident. The professional 7 day a week athletes of Wigan & the amateurs of Bath, squeezing in training sessions in their 'spare' time. On the training pitches of Farleigh House yesterday there were two fully professional squads training. Who now has the fitter squad or better athletes? We're sure that a few of the players would have challenged players from the opposing squads! But any difference, allowing for different positions, must be marginal.
Yesterday started with a stroll in the sun, down from the car park, with a chat with two rugby looking types. Who were these 2? Of course they were Wigan great & current England coach Andy Farrell, together with England's Graham Rowntree. Andy recalling those matches back in 1996 in which he played for Wigan. Kris Radlinski, who also played his part in those 1996 'Clash of the Codes', also joined us on our stroll.
The venue for the joint training session was Bath's training ground at Farleigh House. You are first struck by the magnificent splendour of the building but the training facilities that Bath have built under Bruce Craig ' s ownership are equally splendid. Normally Farleigh House is firmly behind close doors but today was Press Day for Bath & this historic training session. Everybody at Bath Rugby was so very helpful & friendly, a true spirit of the Bath Family on display as always.
Watching the players do what they call light warm up exercises & stretching made the eyes water, those 'light' routines would probably have put most of us mere mortals in hospital! Watching the players warm up then train in front of majestic Farleigh House, was truly an impressive sight. Not a bad place to have to work or train, whatever the weather!
After the training session, the players came off & did interviews in different rooms for, BBC Points West, The Bath Chronicle & the rest of the assembled press. I had a long chat with Mike Ford over a cup of coffee before he went to talk to The Bath Chronicle with Wigan boss Shaun Wane. They both agreed that this training was brilliant for both sides & that Bath are welcome up to Wigan to do the same another time. Maybe in the build up to the next Super League season? I spoke to Mike about George's shoulder operation & how he feels fitter than ever before. The operation has made a huge difference as he'd been living with the shoulder injury for quite a while. The chances are we will see George make an appearance against Jersey at the weekend. Then sadly the afternoon was over & it was time to head home.
Will we ever see another Bath v Wigan 'Clash of the Codes'? As Wigan Chairman, Ian Lenagan said yesterday, “I don’t think there’s any doubt we get on really well, and with Mike Ford there as coach it would be silly to rule anything out".
By @debbiecavell & @JD_Newmarket (@RugbyBath)