Bath fly-half Orlando Bailey said playing with more freedom has helped him enjoy a breakthrough season and a first call-up to the England team.
Bailey’s emergence has been a bright spot in what has been a tough season for bottom of the Premiership Bath.
Having progressed through the club’s academy, the 20-year-old has cemented himself as a leader at number 10.
He committed his future to Bath by signing a two-year contract extension this week.
“It’s probably just trying to take any shackles off that I might have, being a youngster but not worrying about that,” Bailey told BBC Radio Bristol.
“Last season I probably had a couple of games where I was a bit quiet because I was trying to do the right thing, make the right decisions, not making mistakes.
“I’ve had a good mindset shift this year where I’m trying to be brave with the ball when the space is there to take and also being really commanding when it’s a time to gain some territory or put the forwards around the park.
“For me, it’s finding my voice but also being fearless with the ball.”
Bailey – a lifelong Bath fan – made his debut for the team in 2020 but featured more in the second half of last season after injuries to Rhys Priestland and Tian Schoeman.
While Danny Cipriani was signed this season, he has featured only seven times for the team after suffering multiple injuries.
Bailey credits the likes of Priestland and Cipriani with helping him learn, as well as skills coach Ryan Davis who he has worked with since he was a teenager.
“I think that’s when players are at their best, backing your instincts,” he said.
“It’s really important in any sport, making sure you take away any obstacles which may stop you from doing that and just try to be completely free and engaged when you’re on the field.”
England come knocking
After winning the Under-20 Six Nations title with England last year, Bailey was one of six uncapped players named in Eddie Jones’s squad for this year’s main tournament.
He found out about the call-up after being added to a team WhatsApp group minutes before the announcement was made public.
“I’d just finished in the gym and looked at my phone and thought this can either be my friends doing a prank on me or this could be it. It was a pretty cool moment,” Bailey said.
Despite facing most of his new team-mates in the Premiership he admitted he still felt in awe when he first joined the camp.
“I almost felt a bit star struck at points but they were all so friendly and welcoming. Once you’re in it’s just about training hard and keeping your head down and doing the best you can. It was a really enjoyable week there,” Bailey said.
Bailey was sent home prior to the Italy match due to a slight twinge in his hamstring, but having recovered he is hopeful of linking back up with the team next week and fighting for a place in the squad for the match against Wales.
“At this point I think I’m involved, so I’ll be back in there and hoping to keep showing what I can do.”
Playing all over the pitch
While fly-half remains Bailey’s favoured position, he is versatile. Against Leicester earlier this season he started at full-back, but he can also play at centre.
“There’s very transferable skills for those positions,” he said.
“There are benefits to having a fly-half at number 12 or 15 as well, to have another set of eyes and ears to understand what the 10 needs information-wise and pictures-wise.
“There are benefits to it and depending on what a coach likes – as I said I just like being on the field and I’ll play wherever needed.”
Despite the results being disappointing this season for Bath, Bailey feels certain the team will continue developing in the years to come, particularly with other young talents such as Max Ojomoh also signing to stay with the team.
“Over the next two years we’ll show real progression and we’ve got an exciting group of young players,” he said.