VIDEO: The Bath connection that secured England lock a World Cup lifeline at Loftus
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White has confirmed that their connection with Bath Head of Rugby Johann van Graan is at the heart of the decision to throw England lock Charlie Ewels a World Cup lifeline.
The England lock, Ewels, has recently returned to fitness after nine months out of the game with an ACL injury which required surgery.
Spending the past nine months working with the Bath medical team towards a return to fitness, the former England Under-20 captain was looking for game time to get back into England’s World Cup frame.
That is where the Van Graan connection with Pretoria entered the picture.
White told a media briefing that Ewels has a relationship with the Bulls through people – read Van Graan – they know at Bath.
And the Bath boss confirmed it as well.
“Charlie is an extremely professional and diligent member of our squad,” he told the media in Bath.
“His attitude to his rehabilitation has been exemplary and the next step of his journey is getting back to playing competitive rugby.
“We feel the Bulls environment will benefit his game and it will be like having a new signing when he returns to the club.”
Van Graan started as a technical adviser for the Bulls, then moved into a role as the team’s forwards and attack coach – helping them win three Super 14 titles in 2007 (under head coach Heyneke Meyer) and 2009 and 2010 (under Frans Ludeke).
He joined the Springboks coaching setup in 2012 as a technical adviser, where he again linked up with Heyneke Meyer.
In 2017 he moved to Munster in Ireland and joined Bath in 2022.
The Bulls still have some ‘paperwork’ to complete before the 27-year-old second row forward, Ewels, will run out in the famous light-blue jersey of the Loftus Versfeld-based team.
“It’s a bit of a double win,” White said of the signing.
“Firstly, we get a player like him who has played 30 Tests for England, 111 games for Bath.
“[He] has captained the England junior side and won a Junior World Cup.
“So, he’s got a lot of experience and very good in the line-out.
“That’s a win for us.
“For him, he’s trying very hard to get into the [England] World Cup set-up, and he needs to play some games and get some rugby under his belt.
“Hopefully we can get the two married together.
“He is a gain for us, and hopefully we can help him play good rugby and get himself into the mix for the World Cup.”
(Article continues below the Jake White interview …)
White described to signing as an “extraordinary” case and played down the suggestion it could become a regular occurrence.
“This is about a guy who is 27 years old, dying to get into the World Cup squad, and has a relationship with us through people we know at Bath,” he said.
“He wants to play rugby, and we are happy to have him here.
“I don’t think this is the way forward.
“I can’t see international players wanting to come and play here when they can earn the salaries they earn overseas.
“I don’t think it would be fair, [with] the way we make up our squads, to pick all these overseas players here.
“We already have restrictive numbers, transformation charters we’ve got to put in place.
“I can’t see there’s going to be an abundance of overseas players coming into our set-up.”