A SPELL at Championship side Bristol last season allowed Bath Rugby back row Josh Ovens to iron out any flaws in his game and the young tyro claims he is now in the shape of his life – and ready for a starting role at the Rec.

And with senior players sidelined through injury, the 23-year-old is determined to press his case for a regular slot in the West Country side’s Aviva Premiership first XV.

A product of the Bath Academy , Ovens has already started two Premiership matches this season, including the impressive 21-18 win over champions Harlequins last month.

Now injuries to Carl Fearns and Ben Skirving have presenting Ovens with an opportunity to leave a lasting impression in first team coach Toby Booth’s mind.

“Last year was massive for me,” said the Trowbridge-born youngster, whose cousin Lawrence made nine appearances for Bath as a prop between 2004 and 2009. “I played a lot of rugby and have improved as a player as a result.

“I always wanted to come back and start as many games as possible but we have such competition here.

“I feel a lot more prepared for the challenge. Before I went I was playing here and there and it was up and down.

“Before it was hard to improve each week because you sometimes forget what it was you did wrong or could have done better.

“Playing week-in, week-out I got a better understanding of where I need to be, the right lines to run, improving my tackling and all the traits you need to be successful.

“It was great to start against Quins. I got very excited as it was just my second start on the season and it was a massive game, particularly as we had lost to them in the LV= Cup the week before.

“You can play well against an average side but when you produce your best against the champions it’s so much more rewarding and as a team we came together.

“When you get that opportunity you have to take it and I feel I managed to do that against Quins and hopefully it will warrant some more time on the pitch.”

Ovens will now be hoping to start against Calvisano in an Amlin Challenge Cup double-header over the next two weeks, after appearing off the bench in Bath’s ill-tempered 17-12 defeat to Leicester at the weekend in which three players were shown red cards.

“I am pushing for that starting role and with the likes of Carl and Ben out injured I need to take that opportunity to make a statement the coaches will remember when they return,” he added.

“That starts with the Challenge Cup and we will be looking for two more wins and to be executing the right performances.”

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