Bath Rugby must cope without England star Jonathan Joseph for the next three months but opportunity knocks for one man in particular.
With Joseph and Kyle Eastmond forming one of Aviva Premiership Rugby’s, if not Europe’s, most menacing partnership in the centres, Ollie Devoto has been plugged into many gaps across the back-line without nailing down one position.
He has not lacked for game time – Devoto, who turned 22 last month, is four games shy of his 50th Aviva Premiership Rugby appearance – but the outside centre berth is now up for grabs in the short-term due to Joseph’s chest injury.
And after playing a full 80 minutes in last weekend’s rain-drenched game at Wasps, Devoto is out to prove that his link-up with Eastmond can prove a fruitful one.
“Last season was tough for me, trying to get into the team with JJ and Kyle in form,” said Devoto. “In my opinion they were the form players in the Premiership so it was always going to be difficult, but now I have an opportunity through JJ’s absence and I need to make sure I take it.
“My favourite position has always been in the centres so this is perfect for me and I’m really looking forward to the weeks and months ahead.
“Playing at 13 when conditions are like that (against Wasps), you are challenged in other areas. But the team has done a fantastic job in pre-season and I feel like it’s gone really well so far. I took a bit of a knock a few weeks ago but I’m where I need to be at this stage of the season..
“The guys coming back from England have not needed any time to get back into it at Bath, they are all very strong characters and they’ve returned as if nothing has happened.
“They have been in a total bubble with England for a long time so it’s been brilliant to see.”
Bath have not only been reinforced by the return of their England players – they’ve welcomed a Flying Fijian in the form of Nikola Matawalu.
The scrum-half, an arrival from Glasgow Warriors, is a livewire with ball in hand and though things did not quite work out for the 26-year-old last week Devoto says his best is yet to come.
“Nikola is quite a character and he’s been easy to welcome in the group. He has that quality of being able to create something out of nothing,” Devoto added.
“We saw glimpses of that last week but we were not able to hold the ball for a long enough time. But you know that he’s going to be a huge asset to our back-line.”
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