Stepping off the train on Saturday afternoon I'd be forgiven for thinking that it was a match day in the middle of May for the City of Bath was filled with blue, black and white shirts. As we all know we are well and truly in the middle of the quiet and dare I say it boring part of the year when domestic rugby takes a break. The shirts were all heading towards the open house at the Rec and the start of the club's 150th anniversary celebrations.
As I wondered down through the Riverside gate there was evidence all around as to how much the Aviva Premiership side means to its supporters and how accessible the team remains to supporters. Is that unusual or unique to Bath Rugby? No, of course not it would have been the same at any of our Aviva Premiership sides however it was great to see. Throughout the day first team players coached kicking and passing sessions for enthusiastic kids and made their summers by chatting with them. Those in charge of the club gave huge insight into the goings on behind the scenes from the way in which the academy is run from Danny Grewcock right up to Mike Ford who shared openly his views on all manner of subjects. The views of both weren't guarded or sugar coated, they were honest and for that every listener respected those leading their club. The fact is that, it is this accessibility and openness that makes rugby special and this characteristic of our sport is something that we should never take for granted.
In my opinion nothing beats a buzzing rugby club, be that on an Aviva Premiership or European match day or at events like Bath's Family Festival. The values that the Rugby Football Union work to; Respect, Teamwork, Discipline, Sportsmanship and Enjoyment are evident for all to see and as our game continues to grow it is encouraging that even with commercial pressures and all the trappings of professionalism these core beliefs remain strong. The Rugby World Cup will undoubtedly bring many more people into our sport, active participants and new supporters across the Aviva Premiership and I expect the majority to arrive and stay.
To reiterate an earlier point, the jovial and delightful atmosphere at the Rec on Saturday afternoon would have been evident at any Aviva Premiership side and certainly from my perspective it reminded me how empty the off season can feel! Needless to say it is a little over 9 weeks until the Aviva Premiership returns and in-between we can all immerse ourselves in England's warm up fixtures, the domestic sevens and pre-season competitions and of course the Rugby World Cup. The back of the off-season has been well and truly broken and before long we will all be enjoying the marvellous sense of belonging that comes from being a part of domestic rugby.