Saracens away is the hardest match of any clubs Gallagher Premiership Season but to go there with hardly any of your perceived first choice players has to be construed as a case of waving the white flag before stepping off the bus.
Well that is exactly what Todd Blackadder did when he travelled with his Bath Rugby team to Allianz Park at the weekend.
Bath were sitting in a playoff position before this weekend and a win would have consolidated that but instead, as the Kiwi Coach said after the game, they came to try and win a point through a losing or try scoring bonus.
The former Crusader’s Coach has been slammed in the press and by some of the fans for making this decision and from a fan’s perspective you do have to feel that their grievances are fair to be aired.
Watching Professional Rugby is not a cheap hobby and those that travelled to North London on Saturday should very well feel aggrieved. You want to see your team be competitive in every game that they play in and make you proud. This second string may have made them proud through their effort but they certainly were not competitive.
That said, it was the least amount of points that Bath have lost to Saracens in the past three seasons. Last season was nothing but a training match for Sarries as Bath surrendered early on to lose by 35 points and the year before by 43 at Allianz Park.
From a coach’s perspective, you do have to show some empathy with the situation.
Bath are notoriously bad on artificial pitches and their squads over the past couple of seasons have tended to pick up a lot of injuries that have seen them peter out in the second of the season. They are already without star players like Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson and Beno Obano as it is.
A Premiership squad does need to be managed carefully and the Westcountry Men host Exeter Chiefs this Friday night before their Heineken Champions Cup campaign starts against Toulouse but 13 changes to last week’s winning team is surely too many?
Taking such influential players as Taulupe Faletau, Freddie Burns, Luke Charteris, Sam Underhill, Zach Mercer and top try scorer Joe Cokanasiga out of the side isn’t the ‘rotation’ Blackadder eluded to, it’s resting an entire backbone of a team.
There is a fine balance when managing a squad as you have to pick the right players to be rested in the right matches but the former All Black took it way too far.
The fact that he admitted his charges only came to get a point from the game only accentuates the point.
There will be no recourse from Premiership Rugby because who are they to tell a coach who his best XV are but there would be a call for the Premiership’s governing body to be concerned at the loss of credibility of their competition.
There are a paying public attending matches that their brand governs and for them to think that clubs are prioritising other competitions ahead of their own would be a concern.
Bath are in the elite European competition this season so they won’t have a chance to rest any players because of inferior opposition from places like Russia as other clubs will so this is possibly why Saturday’s game in the Premiership came under such scrutiny.
Had they been playing in the Challenge Cup this season I very much doubt that these changes would have been made.
Either way you look at this there are arguments for and against what Blackadder and his coaches chose to do against Saracens but if I was a paying member of the public that had travelled up the M4 to support the away team then I probably wouldn’t want to hear them.
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