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Premiership Rugby

Rowell on Bath’s preparations

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

The former England supremo had figured he could rely on the experience of the utility back during the early season, but England coach Clive Woodward will now be taking Catt to Australia as cover for fly-halves Jonny Wilkinson and Paul Grayson.

"The Mike Catt thing has come like a bolt from the blue," said Rowell.

"We hadn't planned for that. Obviously we're delighted for him, he's had two injury-stricken seasons and has worked very hard and has been rewarded with an England call-up, but his absence has left us with a hole."

Even before the loss of Catt, Rowell had taken a scalpel to the squad, hoping to resuscitate the once-invincible behemoth that was Bath.

"We've overhauled the squad, we've got 15 new boys in and it's not the happiest thing to do – but we need to strengthen the squad.

"One shouldn't have to do this much – but what we should be able to do now is evolve. That's what good teams do – the Manchester Uniteds, the Leicesters, the Bath of old.

"Mike has seen and done it all and has proved himself to be a match-winner. His loss has set us back a bit, but we have Olly Barkley, who is a very promising fly-half. He will step in the vacant spot but that leaves us short of cover."

Bath need to get off to a flying start should they wish to exorcise the horrors of finishing second from bottom in the last two years, missing out on the drop last season on points difference, and new coach John Connolly, who will oversee the gelling together of the new-look team, will need all the experience that his stints at Swansea, Stade Français and the Queensland Reds afforded him.

Connolly and Bath, however, will be without club captain Danny Grewcock, who will join Catt in Australia, but the big lock has made his impression on preparations another way.

The lock's growing stature at the club was confirmed by Rowell, who said that the signing of former Saracens prop David Flatman came on the back of a strong recommendation from Grewcock.

"Danny was going past the meeting room one morning last season so I called him in and told him to tell [former coach] Mike Foley what he needed for next season. He replied that he wanted two good scrumming props – Flats is one, [David] Barnes is two and young Matt Stevens is coming up very strong from the Under-21s."

"Flatman is a great player, concluded Rowell, "and a good man to have on a night out – or so Danny tells me!"

Bath open their Zurich Premiership season with a trip to Leeds on September 14.

By Andy Jackson

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