Bath Rugby’s Director of Rugby Todd Blackadder is looking forward to getting the Aviva Premiership season underway following a strong pre-season.
The Blue, Black and White begin their campaign against Leicester Tigers tomorrow and Blackadder believes the group are ready mentally and physically to compete with the best.
Blackadder said: “What we had at the end of the season was a robust review, which was needed. We didn’t leave a stone unturned. We looked at ourselves as coaches in the way were playing and how we can do it better. We spent a lot of time analysing that and thinking how we can do things better. We’ve come up with a structure that will not only suit the way we want to play, but also to make us more competitive.
“We have worked really hard on not only re-investing in our culture, but also getting into some really good habits as well as build stronger minds and bodies. The guys have been working really hard and pushed every step of the way. We’ve been working hard all the way through, not just getting the guys fit and strong, but working hard on our game so when we start the season, the framework is in place and we can get really stuck into the competition.”
After winning two out of three pre-season fixtures on the road, Blackadder admits that their games against Bristol, Ospreys and Leinster will help put to bed the Club’s indifferent away form last year.
“The games have given us confidence. One of our biggest issues was our away record and all of our three pre-season fixtures were away, so we were just addressing those things subconsciously. It was probably the difference between finishing fifth and fourth last season. I’m really pleased with the attitude towards those games. All that we have been doing is setting ourselves up the best we can for Leicester.”
The squad have benefitted from the return of Bath’s British & Irish Lions contingent in recent weeks and Blackadder is looking forward to seeing Taulupe Faletau, Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson back in action for the Club, starting with this weekend.
“Toby, JJ and Anthony could have a massive influence on us this season. It was really refreshing to hear JJ talk about last season and he's come back re-invigorated. Anthony is a real leader and played incredibly well over the summer. Toby was the best Lion on tour - he stood up to that All Back forward pack and led the way.
"Just having those guys will have a massive impact on our team. The most impact they can have on our team is to play well, so I’m really excited to have them back and can’t wait to see them in a Bath jersey.”
There will however, be a few names missing from the 23 tomorrow, but the former All Blacks captain has every faith in whoever pulls on the Blue, Black and White over the course of the season.
“A lot of the injuries are a hangover from last season. We’re still waiting on Henry Thomas and Max Lahiff to come back, so they’re looking around week four or five. We’ve lost Shaun Knight, Craig Mitchell, every tighthead cover we’ve bought in. It looks like Nathan Catt might not be ready until round four, he tweaked his back a couple of weeks ago.
“Charlie Ewels was at England training and he’s come down hard on his heel and got a bit of a bone bruise so he might not be right for the first few weeks. Dave Attwood has still got a reoccurring knee injury, which he picked up last season. We’ve always known about the possibilities of what could possibly happen, which is why we’ve retained our squad and spent so much time getting those guys up to speed.
"I’m not using injuries as an excuse - the guys that are fit are the only ones that can influence what you do on the pitch. I’ve got massive self-belief in those guys because I’ve seen them train and we’ve been preparing all off season for this. We know that this competition is a dog fight, but we’ve got the right people to do the job. All the guys that have come in are all quality men, so I know that they’re going to put everything on the line for Bath every time they get an opportunity.”
A trip to Welford Road awaits and Blackadder is relishing the prospect of go head-to-head with one of Bath’s great rivals.
“We wouldn’t want it any other way to be honest. It was always going to be a big ask, but we want to address the mindset that we’ve struggled with all last season. Bath and Leicester matches have always been right up there and I’m sure Sunday will be no different.”
You can purchase tickets for our first three home fixtures by clicking here or phoning the Bath Rugby Ticket Office on 0844 448 1865.