Toby Booth admits he can’t wait to welcome Rhys Priestland to the Rec, the Bath Rugby first team coach adamant it will allow George Ford to flourish even further.
Since being handed the Bath No.10 shirt Ford has not looked back, the 22-year-old showing maturity beyond his years as he helped the club finish fifth in Aviva Premiership Rugby last season, and has them sitting second in this current campaign.
However, his rapid rise is somewhat of a double-edged sword for Booth and the Bath coaches with his form unsurprisingly seeing him called up for England duty meaning he won’t always be available for selection.
In Ford’s absence Gavin Henson and Ollie Devoto have performed admirably – Bath picking up 13 points out of a possible 15 during the autumn internationals – however the fly-half position at the Rec is set to become even more hard-fought next year with the arrival of Preistland.
Priestland, 27, is closing in on 150 appearances for current club Scarlets having scored over 1000 points, while he has 32 Wales caps to his name, steering them to their first World Cup semi-final for 24 years back in 2011.
And while Priestland’s talent will undoubtedly add to Bath’s already impressive arsenal, Booth believes the Welshman’s arrival will also have a knock on affect for Ford as well.
“It is really important to have strength in depth as much as possible throughout your squad so of course we are delighted to welcome Rhys Priestland for next season,” Booth said.
“Having another international No.10 in the prime of his career to call on is really important for us and for our ambitions.
“It will strengthen us not just individually in that area but also as a collective unit. We have a young squad and his experience having been there and done that will be crucial.
“It is also really important to get competition in place to push George Ford on further because it is easy to forget how young he is and how much he still has to learn and evolve.
“We will have more chance to take the pressure off George and allow him to take a step back if necessary at some point.
“It is all part of the evolution of this club and getting to where we want to be and being consistent. To do that you need the best players and Rhys gives us that to bolster our ranks.”
Priestland is the latest big name to announce he has signed on the dotted line at the Rec, following in the footsteps of rugby league convert Sam Burgess.
Burgess has wasted no time on stamping his mark on Aviva premiership Rugby and Booth believes this is just the start for the current crop of stars at his and Mike Ford’s disposal.
“Sam is a top guy and has adapted very quickly which is great,” Booth added. “How he gets into contact and how he is at rucks in particular has been very good.
“He is probably the perfect advert to what we are trying to do because the more he plays the faster he will develop and that goes for a lot of our young guys.
“As a group we are very young and the more they play the more they will learn and it is exciting to think what we could evolve into.”
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