THEY have been business partners, close friends and teammates, but now Lydney’s latest signing Mike Baxter has to call Duncan Bell ‘boss’.
Lydney director of rugby Bell pestered former Bath scrum-half Baxter for more than a year to join the club but work commitments and the arrival of his child kept him away. He has finally put pen to paper this week.
Former England and Bath prop Bell said Baxter was “one of his best mates” and he was an usher at his wedding last year.
When both players were at Bath, former Scotland Sevens player Baxter ended up living right next to Bell. In 2007 they both took their financial advisers’ course and set up a business together.
Though this was a short-lived venture as Baxter realised his future lay in rugby coaching, the duo have remained firm friends since.
And Bell believes this signing sends a signal out – Lydney are building a squad for the future.
He said: “I want it to be known we have signed him.
“We are really excited about next season and any players teetering on the edge of leaving their own clubs should know this.
“They can have confidence in us building a squad for the future. Mike will bring a very professional ethos to the club and should have a lot to say about how we play.
“He has a number of years of professional rugby experience in a professional environment and will bring a lot of pedigree to the club.
“He is fully committed to improving the squad but will have to fight for his place. He has had a year off rugby and he won’t go straight into the starting XV.
“And who do you drop from the backline? It is a brutally hard decision to make. But as they say, form is temporary and class is permanent and that is definitely the case with Mike.”
Some may question why Lydney have targeted such high-profile signings while they sit 15 points clear at the top of National Three South West with just eight games remaining this season.
But Bell is building a squad for the future which he hopes will lie in National Two or higher.
Baxter will be available for selection for the Severnsiders’ home National Three clash with Avonmouth Old Boys tomorrow (3pm) – should the game survive the dreadful weather.
Lydney edged to a narrow 8-3 win at Amersham and Chiltern at the weekend on an atrocious pitch.
Bell said his side had avoided a “banana skin” with that win but can not afford to take their foot off the gas when Avonmouth come to Regentsholme.
“They have been competitive in the league and pushed us last time – they were leading at half time,” Bell said.
“They are a strong side. They have a consistent nine and 10 and a talented six who slowed our ball down.
“They also tackled like demons. It will be tough and with the greatest of respect conditions will be a great leveller. They will be thinking they stand a really good chance. We want to win this league and not lose any more games. And that is not unreasonable.”