RUGBY: Hatley excited by young guns

Wiltshire Times: Neal Hatley Neal Hatley

AS BATH United march on towards Monday's Aviva A League final, Neal Hatley believes this year's vintage can follow their predecessors into the first team fold.

Hatley, who was placed in charge of Bath's A team this season, watched them beat Sale Jets 39-21 in front of a sold-out crowd at The Rec last month.

A mix of academy players and first-team stars, like Kyle Eastmond and Tom Biggs, blew the visitors away in the first half before easing to victory.

Hatley paid tribute to his young charges and pointed to the likes of George Ford and Anthony Watson as proof that the bridge between academy and first team is not too far.

“You look at the next generation but you sometimes forget - look at the side that played the last league game,” he said.

“I think what is encouraging for me is that the next generation is already there. It is a fantastic position to be in and the young guys are pushing the more experienced guys already.

“The boys realise if the A League guys are going really well it puts a bit of pressure on them.

“Biggsy is such a well-respected bloke here at the club and everybody knows that every time he plays and every time he trains it is at 100 per cent.

“His commitment and attitude and work rate are just phenomenal. I was also really pleased for someone like Kyle to be able to play in a less pressured environment.”

Hatley had talked up the talents of a number of Bath's younger players and they did not disappoint the 6,000-strong crowd at The Rec.

The win set up a final with Northampton Wanderers on Monday night but this time Bath won't have home advantage.

Northampton's superior record in the group stages means the final is at Franklin's Gardens - but Hatley is in confident mood.

“What I was pleased about was the ambition,” he added. “Sometimes in semi-finals and finals people tend to become very conservative and maybe don't follow the seam that has put them in that good position to start off with.

“I thought Tom Dunn, Tom Ellis, Charlie Ewels, Max Clark, who is only 17 playing in the midfield alongside guys like Kyle, showed great quality and attitude.

“Northampton, like us, are a very tribal rugby town and I am sure they will have a massive crowd as well. The boys are looking forward to it immensely.”

The Aviva A League Final between Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby is on Monday 16 December at Franklin's Gardens at 7.30pm. Tickets still available via northamptonsaints.co.uk/buytickets - £5 adults, £2 juniors, free for Saints Season Ticket Holders and Saints Nation Members.

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