When London Welsh take to the field at Bath on Saturday they’ll do so for the first time as a Premiership club, following last season’s Championship winning exploits, and with more than a few faces in their ranks that’ll be familiar to The Rec faithful.
As many as nine of the current London Welsh squad have at one time or another plied their trade amidst the scenic surroundings of Bath’s Recreation Ground.
Captain Jonathan Mills began his career at Bath, while Simon Whatling, Martin Purdy and Ed Jackson are also no strangers to the West Country side.
Prop Billy Moss spent last season on loan at Old Deer Park, while winger Nick Scott made a huge impact after joining the Exiles at the turn of the New Year, racking up seven tries in the Exiles’ push for Championship success. Both have since made the switch to Welsh permanent.
But it doesn’t stop there. New signings Daniel Browne, Paulica Ion and Matt Keyte have also worn the blue of Bath, and one of those summer acquisitions, scrum half Keyte, is eagerly looking forward
to making his London Welsh debut against his former club.
“It’s a great ground and a good place to play so I’m looking forward to,” he said.
“I definitely have a lot of fond memories of my time at Bath. I really enjoyed being there and it will be good to play there again.”
If he does make his Welsh debut on Saturday, however, lining up against Bath won’t be entirely new experience for the scrum half, who did just that in in a pre-season friendly in 2011 when on loan at Bristol.
“The crowd is always good fun, and so is playing against players that you know,” added Keyte, who is settling in well to life at London Welsh.
“The squad’s coming together now and I’m just looking to the opportunity to get out in a live environment and put everything that we’ve been practising into action in a game.
“It will be a good chance to see how we gel as a team and what the new signings are made of, including myself. I want just to get out on the pitch and play, get some game time and try to improve.”
For another former Bath favourite, Moss, who made 31 appearances for the Exiles last season, Saturday is definitely an occasion to look forward to.
“It will be fun to play against good friends that I’ve still got there,” he said.
“It’ll be quite competitive….I’m looking forward to it.
“Pre-season’s going well. It’s tough but pre-season is the time for hard work, so it’s been good.
“We had such a long season last year that pre-season this year has actually been quite brief, but that’s actually a good thing because playing’s more fun than pre-season training.
“Saturday will be a different test - much more physical. They’ll be out to win. I know they’ve got new coaches but I’m sure they’ll retain a lot of Bath’s characteristics. But they won’t underestimate us at all, because we’ve made some good signings.”
Despite his Bath past, though, Moss is very much now a London Welsh player and featured in both legs of the Championship final win over the Cornish Pirates.
“As soon as I came to Welsh I felt that I was a London Welsh player, and I felt like that all year, which is why I was delighted to sign permanently for the club,” he added.
“It was a great season; I peaked and troughed throughout it and I learnt a lot, from Lyn especially. Last season was the best in my career.”
Tickets can be bought online (www.bathrugby.com/tickets) or on 0844 448 1865, or on the gate on the day. They cost £10 for adults, £5 for juniors or a family ticket (2 adults 2 children) is £25. Gates will open at 12.15pm.