Stevie Scott Exclusive: The gratitude, the environment and the belief that has led Bath's scrum coach to Twickenham

Scrum coach Stevie Scott was brought in by Bath Head of Rugby Johann Van Graan last summer
©Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images

Stevie Scott agrees that this is one of the biggest weeks in his coaching career.

It is almost exactly a year since Bath announced the former Scotland international as their new scrum coach and he - and the club - have enjoyed the kind of season those of a Blue, Black and White persuasion have been yearning for since 2015.

Between then and now, Bath have been absent from the big dance at Twickenham but after finishing second in the regular Gallagher Premiership campaign and getting past Sale Sharks in the semi-finals, this famous old club will compete to become the 'Kings of England’ once again.

“I think everybody knows what it means to be back in a Premiership final," Scott tells TRU. "You are working for a club in a city which genuinely breathes the sport and you can feel that everywhere you go.

"From my view, I am grateful to be involved with this club. To be part of a team who has got to a Premiership final in my first year, I think you would be wrong if you weren’t excited by this. We feel this time we are ready to be in a final.”

In the case of both Scott and Bath, facing Northampton Saints in Saturday’s showpiece event is a far cry from two years ago.

For Scott, he had just joined Worcester Warriors but his move to the West Midlands was never formally announced due to the ‘financial pressures’ surrounding the club at the time.

A few months later, Worcester went into administration leaving Scott out of work and at a crossroads.

"I am so grateful to have had another opportunity to be back in the Premiership after what happened at Worcester," he explains. "For it to be taken away like it was was so tough but Bath gave me a chance to be in this exciting position, to enter this environment."

In January 2023 up in Scotland, Scott did become Watsonians' Super6 head coach but after what happened at Worcester, one person in particular was quick to reach out.

Bath’s Head of Rugby Johann van Graan.

“The first time he actually contacted me was when I was at Worcester when Worcester went bust," Scott says.

"We started speaking back then right up until the point of me joining Bath last summer but that I think, before anything else, just shows you that Johann thinks of other people first. That is one of his key strengths."

And it is the 'strengths' of Van Graan which have taken Bath to within one game of becoming Premiership champions for the first time since 1996.

When the South African arrived at the club in July 2022, there may well have been mutterings of concern around The Rec.

Bath had finished bottom of the Premiership for the first time in their history but even at the beginning of Van Graan’s tenure, those concerns didn’t ease as the Blue, Black and White lost their first seven league games of the season.

However, the 44-year-old has since turned things around, fostering a culture which has helped elevate Bath to the next level.

“I just think he is a great leader for Bath,” Scott says. “He is also a great bloke and that is one of the most important things, as simple as it sounds, and it is one of the reasons I joined last year.

“It is never about him. It is always about the team and I think that is what he has put into this place. We are all in this together, we’re all aligned and we are all trying to get to the same point.

“He is very, very good at creating an environment where we are all aligned and we are all pushing towards the same end point. He keeps driving that even now. People want to work for him and want to play for him and that is the key thing.”

Van Graan’s overhaul of the club’s staff and heads of department - combined with some eye-catching and shrewd recruitment - has played a part in everyone at Farleigh House [Bath's training ground] singing off the same hymn sheet.

And in the amphitheatre of the Gallagher Premiership, perhaps it is conductor-in-chief Finn Russell who has helped Bath hit all the right notes.

The Scottish fly-half is not the first glamorous signing to create a fervour at The Rec but Russell’s arrival in the West Country seems to have been a perfect match.

Whether it is the chemistry he has created with half-back partner Ben Spencer, his directives and communication with his fellow teammates or the growing maturity in his game, Russell’s reported salary of £1m per season is proving to be worth every penny.

“I have known Finn from his younger days when he was playing club rugby in Scotland but Finn has been away [with Racing 92] and he came back,” Scott says.

“People have probably got a perception of Finn but Finn is a very dedicated rugby player. He plays with a smile on his face and that smile on his face means he is enjoying himself. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care.

“You might see him in the warm-up smiling, headphones in or whatever but he really does care a lot about the game. His attention to detail proves that and you can tell by the way he handles himself that he has built a lot of confidence around the squad with other players.

“He has fitted in really well at Bath. He has performed really well but what is clear is so have a lot of players around and about him like Ben, Ollie [Lawrence] etc.”

Acquiring the services of Russell has helped Bath climb the ladder to the Premiership final but a collective 'belief in the process' has been a key catalyst according to Scott.

“I have felt that [belief in what Bath are building] growing as the season has gone on,” Scott says. “As a coach, that belief and connection between players, staff and certainly the support at The Rec has been amazing.

“To feel that emotion on semi-final weekend was another thing. I was speaking to a lot of ex-Bath players that have been around the place a long time and they were saying they had never really heard that connection and noise for a long time so I think that belief is another thing Johann has brought."

Scott also extended his praise to the squad depth Van Graan has been able to build, with quality operators scattered across the team.

From Scott's perspective, the piano shifters up front such as Beno Obano, Tom Dunn and Thomas du Toit are where his main focus lies and like in any match - but especially in Saturday's final - the battle at scrum time will be crucial.

For all of Northampton’s supreme verve and sharpness in attack this season, Saints’ power game and defensive work should also be applauded.

Against Saracens in the semi-finals, Northampton dismantled the champions in the scrum with Phil Dowson’s charges conceding just one penalty compared to their opponents’ six in that area.

“Northampton have got a good pack,” Scott adds. "The final on Saturday will be the fourth game we have played against them if you include the Prem Cup. We know the personnel, we know the six front-rowers and we have worked through that this week.

“We need to make sure we get our part right to make sure we get ourselves into the game at the weekend.

“Look, us and Northampton finished top two and we are both in the final! That tells you you have got two good teams playing in the final. Of course, Northampton attack space well so we have looked at that, how we defend that but also we have looked at how we generate and make space against them. We just have to stick to process. That is the big thing.”

Which way the final will go will depend on many different factors but there’s no doubt that Bath will stay true to what has got them to this point.

“Our big thing for the last 52 weeks has been about getting better each week,” Scott says. “That hasn’t changed this week. Every time we are in training at Farleigh, every minute, every second counts. We’ve set high standards.

“Bath is a club that wants to be at the main end of the log [table] at the end of the season. I don’t think any other Premiership team would be any different.

“That is where we wanted to be and I think it goes back to what I said earlier. For us to have built towards that, it was about one game at a time and getting better from that game. That is what we have worked hard on and that has pretty much took us to where we have got to and that is the Premiership final.”

Two years ago, Bath and Scott may have been unsure about what was coming next for them but now one of the biggest weeks for those involved could end with the biggest prize of all.

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