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Mercer: Bath Rugby’s forwards a special group

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Few teams could cope with the absence of six forwards and still field a team worthy of challenging the best, but Guy Mercer admits Bath Rugby’s pack is one of a kind.

In their title-winning heyday – long before the flair of George Ford and Anthony Watson arrived at the Rec – Bath were renowned for their power in the trenches.

Another bumper crop has come together under Mike Ford and their efforts have been rewarded with no fewer than six call-ups across England’s Six Nations and Saxons squads.

Mercer himself has missed the boat in large part due to a knee injury sustained in October, starting six of six Aviva Premiership Rugby games before being sidelined.

But the flanker insists a LV= Cup trip to the Stoop to take on Harlequins is just the tonic he needs.

“This group of forwards is unbelievable and it could have been more as Dom Day’s been brilliant and could have been called up,” said Mercer.

“Carl Fearns got a late call up too and it’s a deserved reward for his efforts. I’m really pleased to be involved in this group, and to be in a position of strength whether injuries or international duty is quite nice.

“Hopefully I can use this game to remind everyone what I’m about.

“It’s a great environment here, no matter how the boys are doing for England or otherwise everyone is treated as an equal.

“We have strength in numbers at the moment. If you just look at our front-row, we’re in the position where two players with international honours can come off and two can come in.

“It’s similar right the way across the field, when we have the England boys in the back-line and the likes of Horacio Agulla who’s as good as anyone. It’s all credit to the coaches.

“I’m really looking forward to the game, I’ve been playing in the second team for a couple of weeks and it’s nice to get back into it – the knee’s been absolutely fine in that time.”

Seasoned internationals are not the only ones who make up the forwards at Bath, with teenage lock Charlie Ewels in particular promising a sparkling future.

Fresh from making his home debut in Europe against Toulouse last October Ewels, who signed a new contract earlier this week, was handed the captaincy in an emphatic LV= Cup victory over London Welsh.

Bath however did hit a bump in the road in the competition after losing to West Country rivals Exeter Chiefs last time out – something Mercer is keen to rectify at Quins.

He added: “Charlie is really stepping up as a leader, especially for a young guy. He is so calm and considered in what he says and he is not shy or short of an opinion. You need that balance within the group and he is one who certainly who has a big future.

“That performance (against Exeter) was tough but I think the boys have been on a roll since then, they’ve been class over the last few weeks.

“It’s always interesting to see what squads are put out in the LV= Cup but the bottom line is both teams are looking to win, no one wants to be beaten in front of their home fans.

“The Stoop’s a great place to play and got work to do as we lost our last game in the competition – we have got to step up to the plate and make sure we deliver.”
 
Tickets for this year's LV= Cup Final on 22 March at Franklin's Gardens are now on sale. Click here to snap one up from just £20 for adults, £10 for juniors to see who will win the first silverware of the season.

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