David Flatman: The beauty of youth has an ugly side too

From the Front Row: The fortnight of cup games gave our youngsters a chance and now they won't back down in training

A question we players are often asked is how it feels to hop from one competition to another. Well, the truth is that it makes us all feel very unsettled and nervous, like unwanted puppies being shipped from kennel to kennel. Sometimes the backs can even be heard howling at night. OK, so this isn't entirely true.

In reality, once you're out on the field the default mindset is engaged and you compete as you have done since the year dot. The last two weeks have seen us at Bath take on Cardiff and Wasps in the LV= Cup. Both of the games were wet, cold and appropriately physical. I'm pretty confident that no player gave even a second's thought to the title of the event, we were too busy fighting for the blades of grass at our feet.

Today, though, sees us roll back into Aviva Premiership (or as I call it, league) action and guess what, it feels different. The match-day preparation is, of course, exactly the same: wolf down a hearty breakfast, strap up any sore joints, touch your toes and get amongst it. But the real contrast is sensed during the week.

The LV= Cup gave us a chance to rest some of the bodies that had played every game so far and replace them for a fortnight with some keen, spotty youngsters. With this comes a lot of discussion to get these chaps up to speed, lots of repetition to help them absorb all of the new information and, actually, a tangible release of pressure brought about by their youth alone.

You see, the true beauty of youth is the blissful but unappreciated ignorance with which it swaddles its emerging generation. These aspiring professionals are desperate to play, to be Bath first-teamers, to be where we are. If only they knew that, in a way, we envied them a little bit too. Not solely because they are just beginning their journey into the wonderful world of sport, but because they remain free of the burdens of pressure and expectation.

This won't last long, of course. Soon enough these boys will become hardened warriors and will have to cope with the weight of the badge and with opposing teams and players targeting them. They will have to grit their teeth and march on whether their joints and muscles want them to or not, and they will have to do it week after week, year after year.

And this, appropriately, is precisely the difference between training last week and training the week before. The big boys were back together and everything stepped up a notch. Those selected on the bench took the field with a point to prove and those left out altogether, well, they showed what they thought of that.

At one point I thought an angry reserve runner had removed Michael Claassens' head but, thankfully, he made it to his feet. When asked if he was all right he said: "Yeah, but I thought this session was touch [rugby]." Due to a chipped fingernail, I trained in a green – non-contact – bib on Wednesday, which tells everyone I'm feeling a bit delicate and am not to be knocked about. This worked well until minute three, when young flanker Josh Ovens did his best to break my sternum with a tackle. After a brief conversation on the floor we both agreed it was best I ditch the silly top. Green never was my colour.

So this afternoon we welcome to The Rec a formidable Saracens team. I think the magnitude of the challenge is really what sees training intensity increase. Players who have been here before know what is required to beat a team like this when the stakes are high. Nobody is being rested or given a game for the sake of experience. No, this match represents what league games have represented for decades; their best lads against ours.

The league might be called something different now and the shirts may be a bit shinier and a lot tighter, but some things never change, and we wouldn't want them to.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash