“We’re ready to do something quite good this year.” Beno Obano is a man who is always looking forward and that steely determination shines right through the 24 year-old.
“The goal is to win the Premiership. Any team with the squad that we have, that has to be the goal. With the facilities, preparation and help we have, that should always be the focus. Now we have to try and realise that goal.”
The prop is has come through the rigours of a 13-week pre-season and believes that the Club is going in a positive direction under the guidance of Stuart Hooper.
“There have been a number changes – you can’t guarantee that means success; all I know is that as a squad we’re in a good place. I can’t predict the future, but all I can say is I know as a squad what we have done and feel we are very well prepared to do something that we haven’t done before.
Obano played briefly alongside Hooper before his injury-enforced retirement in 2016, and he knows exactly the sort of person Bath Rugby are getting as the Club’s Director of Rugby. Having made his first team bow in 2015, it was Bath’s 14-16 victory against today’s opponents the following year which stands firmly in the loosehead’s memory.
“Hoops’ best skill is his ability to deal with people and handle relationships. He’s done that since I arrived. I didn’t have much contact with him when I first joined - he was the captain and I was 19.
“In my second season, I had one game against Worcester, which was quite big for me. I came on at the beginning because Nick Auterac got injured and Hoops was in the second row. I remember my first scrum, I think I gave away a free-kick and I remember him coming down on me, not in a bad way, but it was more like ‘we need to do this.’ I think that’s when I realised how cut and dry the Premiership is, but also Hoops’ authoritativeness. He’s a great leader and what he’s able to get out of you is quite special just in the way he communicates with you.”
From a personal perspective Obano is looking to continue his progression and draw a line under a knee injury, which saw him ruled out for the majority of the 2018/19 campaign.
“I don’t really like talking about the injury anymore. It’s a part in your life and it is what it is really. If you drive a truck all the time, you’re likely to have a crash and you play rugby, you’re likely to get hurt at some point. I saw it as an occupational hazard and the injury didn’t really do much to me in sense of my mind. It was stuff that came before – I was resilient, determined and driven before the injury and therefore I was able to get through it well. It’s not the injury that did that – that might help in future things, but it wasn’t the event that made the difference.
“I’m more resilient, I can guarantee that and more aware of my body. Any event that is life-changing or important, and you come out on the other side of it, it will genuinely strengthen you as an individual regardless of what it is. You’ve taken a defeat or something that you didn’t like, and you’ve responded and you’re able to cope with what’s happened.”
At the time of his injury, Obano had force his way into the England reckoning following a breakthrough season in the Blue, Black and White 2017/18. Whilst his personal ambitions remain close to his chest, international rugby is something which he admits like any other player is a firm target.
“When you start off doing anything, you have a dream, goal or intention in mind and you want to realise that,” Obano adds. “That’s the important factor, to realise my potential whatever that is. Now I’m getting towards 25, it’s probably time to realise how good I can be. I don’t think I’ve been bad before, but I think I can be better.
“I still think I’m growing and feel like that if I was 30, I’d still be growing. I don’t know when I’m going to sit here and think ‘I’m not going to get any better, I’m not going to improve.’ I don’t think that’s ever going to happen and if it did, I think I’d be regressing. My focus is on continually improving.
“Your ambitions are personal, but playing for your country is something every player wants to achieve. I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t want to play well for Bath and then play for your country. I don’t think that’s individual to me,” he admits.
Obano pulled on the Blue, Black and White for the first time of the season last weekend and acknowledges the importance of the Premiership Rugby Cup block in the context of the Club's season.
“These (Premiership Rugby Cup) games are important because we’re representing Bath and every time we do that, it is important. The goal is about being ready and extremely prepared for that first Premiership game against Bristol and for the season as a whole.”
There are tickets available to see Bath Rugby in action against Leicester Tigers this Saturday at the Rec. Click here to purchase online, or ring the Ticket Office on 01225 536 900.