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By Neale Harvey
Self-proclaimed Bath “old dog” Ross Batty has warned youthful hooking duo Tom Dunn and Jack Walker they face a fight to get past him before fulfilling their potential for club and country.
Batty, 31, is three games into his comeback from neck surgery last summer and believes Dunn and former England U20s man Walker will challenge for England spots at the 2019 World Cup.
However, he told The Rugby Paper: “If both those boys keep getting exposure they’ll challenge Dylan Hartley and Jamie George, but don’t write the old dog off yet because it brings out my best.
“I’ve had a long lay-off and it was great to play my 150th match for Bath against Northampton recently. I’m aiming to kick-on now and really put some pressure on those young guys.
“I’m all for competition, it keeps you moving forward and even at 31 I’m still developing. I’m hungry and having three of us fighting adds to the challenge. If you’re not pushed you don’t improve.”
Dunn is currently sidelined with a finger injury, but Batty said: “The outlook is positive and once he’s over that I’m sure he’ll be pushing to get into that England squad. He’s relentless, physical, has an excellent set-piece and can absolutely make that World Cup squad next year.
“England’s hooking stocks are incredible now, but Jack Walker’s on the comeback trail after his foot injury and has a big Test future as well – if he can get the exposure he needs.”
Batty is grateful to have overcome his injury, explaining: “I had calcification where a nerve had come out of the vertebrae and was getting two or three ‘stingers’ a game. It got to the stage where I was losing feeling in my hands so at the end of last season I had the surgery.
“I tried to stay positive through the rehab and, fortunately, after the initial shutdown it all came right again and I’m back in the picture sooner than expected. My big aim now is to win some silverware with this club having come close in finals on too many occasions.”
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