A CRATE of beer, a PlayStation and a few friends with whom to do online combat. Those were some of the key ingredients in the happy few months enjoyed by Jamie Bhatti at Bath.
The Glasgow and Scotland prop, who is set to play against his old club in Saturday’s Challenge Cup tie, was signed by the English club from Edinburgh as injury cover at the end of 2020. With Rory Sutherland and Pierre Schoeman ahead of him in the pecking order for the loosehead berth, Bhatti, who had moved to the capital from the Warriors in 2019, was keen to move on in search of more game time.
Having already agreed to rejoin Glasgow for the 2021-22 season, he knew he would not be at the Recreation Ground for long. And, given that second lockdown had begun by that, you might have expected his stay in the West Country to be something to be endured. Instead, he had a great time, making some lasting friendships.
“It was the height of Covid when I was there, so everything was shut and we had no fans,” Bhatti recalled earlier this week. “The last game of the season, when I wasn’t involved, was the only game with fans in the whole time I was there.
“But I really enjoyed it. I loved being part of the club down there. It was good experience – really good experience for me to experience the Premiership and what it’s all about.
“I enjoy playing PlayStation, so I did that with the boys a fair bit – in lockdown it was a way of staying in touch. I’d sit there with a crate of lager and play COD [Call of Duty] till four in the morning.
“That was my lockdown anyway. I go to Costco, get my crate of beer, go home and play COD till all hours.
“I got on really well with Tom Dunn, the hooker.They are all good lads. It’s like any club you join – you make mates with the boys.
“Because it was Covid at the time, it was quite tough to socialise outside of rugby. But when we did, towards the end of the season, it was good. They’re good boys.”
Dunn is still part of the Bath squad, as are most of the others with whom Bhatti played over the first half of last year. And, while Johan van Graan came in as the club’s new director of rugby in July, Bhatti believes that Glasgow’s opponents at the Recreation Ground will nonetheless play in a very similar fashion to the style they employed when he was part of their squad.
“I imagine they’ll have the same base of players with a few extras. I imagine they’ll still want to play the way they played when I was there, with the physicality they bring. I imagine they’ll want to be physical this weekend with a good set piece.
“Luke Charteris is still the lineout coach and he won’t have changed much. I think they will definitely come with that maul and scrum mindset that they’ve got.
“I’m looking forward to playing against them. I really enjoyed my time at Bath, but it will be good to go down there and try and get one over on them. It’s the competitive side of you.
“I’ve not played against them before. I think it was the season before I joined Glasgow that we had them in Europe – I think it was maybe Gregor [Townsend’s] last year as head coach.
“But obviously I know the players from being there. There are some really good individual players. We thrive on that physical challenge and they will go toe to toe with you all day. They have good physical players, so we have to be wary of that.”
Bhatti also knows Bath players Josh Bayliss and Cam Redpath from Scotland squads as well as from his own time with the team, and he keeps in close touch with former Warriors prop D’Arcy Rae, who left Scotstoun in the summer of last year just as he was returning. “D’Arcy calls a spade a spade. He played for this club 80 or 90 times, so it will be good for him this weekend to play against us.
“Depending on selection I may be scrummaging against him, but that’s the beauty of rugby. You go toe to toe with each other for 80 minutes and then go for a beer with him and stay in his house after the game. That’s what we do.”
Having at last ended a long losing run on the road by beating Zebre in Parma last week, Glasgow should be in confident mood this week, according to Bhatti. “We’ve got the elephant off our back with the away win at the weekend,” he concluded. “We still weren’t perfect against Zebre, but if we take the last 20 minutes of that game into this week, and have the set-piece dominance that we showed and the attack we showed in bits and the defence, then I’m confident we can get a good result.”
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