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BATH RUGBY: Guy’s back row battle
SCORING two tries is a great way to persuade the coaching staff to keep you in a starting shirt, but Guy Mercer is all too aware of the battle he faces to hold his own in Bath’s back row.
The flanker, 23, bagged a brace in last weekend’s 33-18 win over London Irish in his third successive first-team start in the highly-competitive back three area of the pack.
That competition is only set to increase, with Carl Fearns making his comeback from injury in Monday’s Bath United defeat to Exeter Braves, while Francois Louw’s return from Rugby Championship duty with South Africa is also imminent.
Local boy Mercer’s own hopes now stretch beyond his undoubted joy of merely pulling on the shirt of the club he supported as a boy.
“Having been a fan of the club before, being able to pull a Bath shirt on, or come to training at Bath is amazing, but your ambitions always roll forward,’’ he said.
“I always had a dream to play for the club, but now I’ve got different dreams and aspirations and they involve playing more regularly and going forward with the club to higher places.” With the world-class Louw poised to return within weeks, Mercer recognises the extent of his task to maintain a regular place in the team.
“Flo is a brilliant player and I’ve been lucky enough to play with him a few times so if I get the opportunity to be on the bench when he’s here, or maybe play in the six shirt when he’s back, I’m always grateful to be on the field,’’ he added.
“We’re really blessed that the back row is so strong and has been for a few years now.
“Flo’s work schedule is pretty full on so if he gets the opportunity to put his feet up from week to week, I’ll be very pleased to go and play when he’s not. As long as I’m on the field and in the back row I’m happy.’’
Bath’s promising start to the Aviva Premiership season continued against Irish, but a trip to Sale this evening (7.45pm) presents another significant hurdle.
A 14-13 loss in Manchester in March was a low point of the last campaign, Mercer admitting: “Last year, we let ourselves down up there. It was one of the games we were a little bit disappointed with.
“It’s a difficult place to go and I think people often mention that, but I think Sale are a bit hard done by in that people often refer to the Friday night thing. Really it’s the quality in their team that gets them wins.’’
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