Interview: Tom Dunn on his time with England, Bath's season and looking to the future

Tom Dunn was part of England's squad for the Six Nations but missed out on an appearance
©Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images

Bath hooker Tom Dunn is keen to hit the ground running as he returns from England’s Six Nations camp.

This weekend, he is straight back into a Bath side that has not yet won a game in 2023 and will be hoping to rectify that on Sunday against Exeter Chiefs.

Dunn was rewarded for his outstanding club form with a call-up to Steve Borthwick’s Six Nations squad but England veteran Jamie George and Harlequin Jack Walker were preferred to the Bath hooker throughout the championships.

Dunn said: “I’ve really enjoyed my time away (in England camp) but anyone who has been third choice for any team will know how frustrating that can be. I’m just really excited to be back in the mix and up for selection this week and I’ll give it my best shot.

“It’s always frustrating to not be picked but then you can react in two ways to that; you can sulk about it and be frustrated or you can keep trying harder and try and improve which is what I want to do.

“Jamie is always brilliant, he’s solid at set piece, his throwing is excellent, his international experience is unbelievable. I thought he went really well. Jack probably didn’t have the opportunity he would have wanted. I thought he did really well when he came on.”

Despite results - and game time - not being where he would like them to be, Dunn sees positives in England’s campaign, particularly after their final round match against Ireland last weekend.

“I think the boys showed great character, with the red card (Freddie Steward’s) as well. They fought really well and worked hard for each other. I think that’s a sign of a team improving and going in the right direction.”

On Steward’s card, Dunn added: “I think it’s really difficult for referees at the moment. The letter of the law is the letter of the law but there’s also a human element to it. I can completely understand why they gave him a red card and I can also see why they’ve overturned it to just a yellow. It’s a really tough one.”

Thoughts return to matters at club level and Bath are keen to address their winless record in 2023. The Blue, Black and White's last victory came on New Year's Eve against Newcastle Falcons but Dunn is confident in his side's ability to turn things around.

“You’re never as bad as you think you are in the same way you’re never as good as you think you are," he tells TRU.

"I don’t think we’re a million miles away. I think this weekend we just have to back our basics, have world-class basics like every Premiership team has to have and execute our plan. Hopefully we can come away with the result.

“Exeter haven’t changed much in the last six or seven years. They keep the ball a lot, play wide off of nine and they go coast-to-coast. They can happily hold onto the ball for 15-plus phases and you’ve got to work really hard to get the ball off them."

After a tough 2022-23 campaign, there might be a few fans heading to The Rec on Sunday already thinking about the prospects for next season. Bath’s front row will be bolstered by some international pedigree as the World Cup-winning South African Thomas Du Toit will be joining Johan Van Graan’s side.

Dunn is excited to see what the Bok can add to the squad as well as the marquee signing of Finn Russell, who once again dazzled for Scotland during the Six Nations.

The Bath hooker said: “He's [Du Toit] is a great signing. He’s a big, big man. He’s got a lot of experience and a lot that’s very different to anyone else in the squad. He’s won a World Cup, he’s played in the URC [United Rugby Championship]. I’m really excited to see how he can come in. We can develop him and he can develop us by sharing that knowledge.

“I don’t know Finn personally but he’s a really exciting player. He’s the kind of player that plays the piano when I’m pushing it. I’m looking forward to playing with him and I think he’ll be brilliant.”

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