Bath Rugby forward Matt Garvey insists he is impressed by the impact Sam Burgess is already making at the Rec, even if the cross-code star proves to be a direct competitor for a back-row place.
Burgess trained alongside his new teammates for the first time on Monday, with head coach Mike Ford reiterating his intention to play the 25-year-old in the back-row rather than at centre.
Although the former rugby league player is still recovering from a fractured cheekbone and eye-socket, Garvey admits that Burgess’s leadership qualities have drawn the admiration of many at the Rec.
Garvey himself is hoping to recapture the form that saw him become a vital member of Bath’s side last season after returning from a long-term ankle injury in the 23-14 triumph over Newcastle Falcons on Saturday.
And the 27-year-old is relishing the challenge of reclaiming his place in the back-row whether or not he has to face up to potential mentee Burgess.
“It’s great to see Sam out on the training field because he’s such a talented player,” he said.
“We’re all looking to help get him fit and prepare as soon as he can and get him making an impact in the team, especially because he is a great leader.
“He’s already spoken to the boys, worked hard and earned the respect of his teammates and he’s also given us a different view of things and some different opinions in the huddles afterwards.
“If flanker or specifically No.6 turns out to be his position then he’s already asked me if he can pick my brains about playing that role and I’ve said he can any time he needs.
“He may turn out to be a threat to my starting place but hopefully that will push me on and spur me on to do better.
“But if I can play alongside him in the back row then that would be fantastic and we can push each other on to form a great back row.
“He’s got to learn the game and all the different facets that aren’t in league but there are things that are similar too, and the lines he runs are already pretty clever to be fair.”
Despite Bath’s impressive run of form this season that sees them third in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table, Ford has had to cope with the loss of several back-row talents to injury.
Yet Garvey insists the problem never reached crisis levels thanks to a series of stellar performances from youngsters Tom Ellis, Charlie Ewels and Max Northcote-Green.
And although the versatile Garvey is able to play at lock or as a blindside flanker, he is determined to hold down a specific jersey, regardless of the competition.
“Max, Tom and Charlie have played brilliantly and helped us get a great start to the season, so there is pressure now for me to come back and put in the performances to match them,” he added.
“It has been a frustrating and difficult period for me and our injury situation has been quite odd as all of the worst ones seem to have been in the back row.
“I’ve always said that I don’t mind playing as a lock or a No.6 but I just don’t want to be a player that moves from one position to the other every game.
“If I get given one I want to hold down that place and make it mine.”
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