Bath Rugby captain and England lock Charlie Ewels has set his sights firmly on a winning restart to the season with London Irish the visitors at the Rec this Saturday (kick-off 15:00, BT Sport Extra 1).
Despite an impressive 38-10 win on the road in December 2019, Ewels is adamant both sides will have been familiarising themselves not only with changes to the respective squad during the lockdown period, but also with competitive rugby itself after the extended break.
He said: “We are always looking to win and we’re always looking for five points, but I think the most important thing – particularly coming off the back of pre-season – is reflecting on ourselves and our game.
“Irish have new personnel, new coaches, and they are a new side to the one we played back in December. We have put all our energy into ourselves and our own preparation and we will be looking to win.
“They have some brilliant players in their backline and forward pack and some dangerous individuals who can make things happen. We have to make sure we are dictating the game, and that we don’t allow those guys that are dangerous to do what they can do.”
The squad will need to ensure they adapt to life quickly behind closed doors as the 25-year-old outlined the challenges that have faced the side throughout phase two and three of returning to training, leading up to rugby restart.
“There are the obvious challenges that Covid-19 has thrown up. Things will be slightly different, and it will be strange having no crowd, but these are things that we have prepared for.
“The other challenges are the normal sort of things that you see at the start of the season – all the conditioning side of things, getting used to playing games again, being put under game pressure. Those are the things that we have trained on at intensity so hopefully we’re ready, but it will always be a challenge for that first game back.”
With the entire squad taking part in a competitive match at the Rec last week, the lock relished the opportunity for the team to get back out on home soil and play a spirited match against each other to give them a game feel again after almost six month away from the field.
Ewels added: “We had an internal training game at the end of last week, which was exactly what we needed after not playing rugby for five and a half months.
“We know it’s training rather than a real game situation, but even just being up against each other, being back at the Rec and getting that gameday buzz minus the fans was good experience. We got to put into practice all the things we have spoken about.
“When you know that someone is supporting you on TV, when you know the support is there, what we do on the pitch and the performance we deliver are so important.
“There is still a home advantage. We are in our stadium, in the heart of our City, with everything familiar around us. Obviously, we lose our biggest home advantage without our crowd but everything else is about preparation. Ultimately it’s the same sized pitch, the same posts and the same goal: to get out there, put in a big performance and come away with a win.”