Euro star Nicol fears long wait for return of Bath Rugby glory days
Legendary captain Andy Nicol believes Bath Rugby have some way to go if they are to return The Rec outfit to its prestigious past.
Fifteen years ago today, Bath celebrated the proudest moment in their history by winning the Heineken Cup.
After a decade of domestic domination, a Nicol-skippered Bath side landed European rugby’s holy grail with a dramatic 19-18 defeat of French side Brive in Bordeaux.
At the time, few would have predicted that would be the club’s last major trophy but ex-Scotland captain Nicol thinks it could be several years before Bath are able to recapture their former glory.
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“I hope they can get back to where they were,” he said. “Gary Gold is clearly a very good rugby man and I think they have got some very good players there but, at the moment, Bath do just look like a mid-table team.
“There’s a big gap between themselves and the likes of Saracens and Harlequins, who really have got things in tune both on and off the field.
“I like the look of what Bruce Craig and Nick Blofeld are doing but you have to match what you do off the pitch with what you do on it.
“I’d love to see the success come back because the club deserve it but there are no quick fixes for this sort of thing.
“I am disappointed they haven’t been able to match the success of the past but not surprised. When you reach that level it’s very hard to sustain it.”
Bath’s heroic triumph 15 years ago brought to a conclusion a glorious period in the club’s history.
After claiming six league titles in eight seasons, winning the continent’s top prize was a fitting finale for a perfectly-tuned team.
“I remember it vividly because it was the culmination of a lot of hard work and success the club had enjoyed over a long period of time,” said Nicol.
“Everyone talks about the points Jon Callard scored but the defensive effort from the pack was unbelievable.
“There was a period when were 18-16 down in the second half and Brive were camped on our tryline, having lots of scrums and lineouts five metres out. If we’d conceded a try then, we wouldn’t have won.
“For many years Bath had been the most dominant team in the country but until the Heineken Cup came in they hadn’t had the chance to prove they were the best in Europe.
“Domestically, I think there was a period of 26 major trophies and Bath won 16 of them. It was just a incredible sustained period of success.
“Bath was always about the team. We had lots of good individual players but the team was always what was important.
“They started with a core of hard-working local players and that really inspired the generation that came through after.
“I only came in towards the end of that but to be lucky enough to captain that side to victory in the Heineken Cup and sort of close that era is something I am incredibly proud of.”
The Bath Rugby Supporters’ Club are holding a 15th anniversary party at The Rec this evening, although Nicol will be unable to attend.
“It’s a shame I can’t be there but I have commitments with the Calcutta Cup,” said Scot Nicol, who will be a pundit with BBC Sport during the Six Nations.
“We were disappointed that the club didn’t really do anything on the tenth anniversary but I did manage to do something quite amazing anyway.
“I was in a supermarket in Edinburgh and who should I bump into but Andy Robinson.
“We went for a coffee and it was only after a while we realised it was January 31 and that exactly ten years before it had been the Heineken Cup final.
“Hopefully we can do something special all together for the 20th anniversary.”
The Bath Rugby Supporters’ Club European Cup Champions 15th anniversary party is taking place at The Rec clubhouse tonight, meet 7pm for a 7.30pm start. Admission is free for BRSC members and £5 for non-members. More than 120 tickets have already been allocated, so call Tom Sutton on 01225 448712 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place.