The Gallagher Premiership kicks off tonight, as Bath Rugby travel to Bristol Bears and Stuart Hooper has been pleased with the way the set-piece has performed over the course of the Premiership Rugby Cup block.
The set-piece has formed a fundamental basis for the squad over pre-season and the platform has continued to build during the games against Exeter Chiefs, Worcester Warriors, Leicester Tigers and Gloucester Rugby.
With Neal Hatley returning to the Club as the Forwards and Defence Coach on the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup, Mark Lilley has been managing the scrum and putting into practice the new laws and how we approach this aspect of the game.
Drawing on his vast experience in the game, Luke Charteris has been responsible for the line-out, which has delivered significant results on the pitch over the Premiership Rugby Cup period.
“In planning for pre-season, we knew the set piece was going to be a fundamental part of the game throughout the season,” Director of Rugby, Stuart Hooper said. “It always has been in the (Gallagher) Premiership, and unless things change radically, it always will be. Right from day one on June 23rd, the lads have been working on the set piece. Luke (Charteris) with the line-out and Mark (Lilley) with the scrum, they’ve put a huge amount of effort in to not only build in correct training programmes to get the results on the weekend, but also engaging the lads in being part of a dominant pack.
“The line-out is a very complex area and Luke does a fantastic job of breaking that down working with the guys to make a really solid platform for us. Communication is key as is the movement patterns and competition in training. There are a number of things that go in the mix there to ensure that in the spotlight on the weekend under pressure everything remains the same as it did on a Tuesday. It then allows us to get the rewards from the line-outs in the games.”
Six tries scored over the Premiership Rugby Cup period were orchestrated off the back of the set-piece, an area which will provide a key focus for all teams in the Gallagher Premiership.
“Recruitment this year has been based around building the platform – our scrum, line-out and ability to carry the ball. You’ve seen in the last few games really add to that with Christian (Judge), Lewis (Boyce), Will (Stuart), Mike (Williams) and Josh (McNally). They’ve all added to the set-piece and they’ll continue to do so. It’s a huge area of the game in the Premiership and something we work on daily.
“There’s a massive emphasis on the lads coming off the bench impacting the game, whether that be the whole front row, second row, we have to add to that and use that as a weapon against the opposition.”
FRONT FIVE IN FOCUS
Lewis Boyce – The loosehead prop joined from Harlequins this summer and will not only bring additional strength within the set piece but the capacity to influence the momentum of the game in both attack and defence. He will add to the physical presence within the front-five with his ability to impact moments within the game.
Nathan Catt – Catt's qualities have been clear in his 150+ appearances in the Blue, Black and White. A formidable competitor and scrummager, with aggression and impact around the field. The loosehead is currently in rehabilitation following surgery in the off-season, but is utilising this time to coach at the University of Bath alongside his training.
Beno Obano – Obano possesses the skills and physical ability to demonstrate game breaking moments that can both create points Bath Rugby and to deny tries for the opposition. His power and agility with ball in hand will add to the repertoire of threats within the tight-five this season.
Lucas Noguera – A strong and agile ball carrier, Noguera adds competition in the number one jersey alongside Boyce, Catt, Obano and Vaughan. Capped over 40 times by Argentina, he will be part of a loosehead group that has real ability to infleunce our momentum in games.
Will Vaughan – Vaughan signed his first senior contract with the Club in January having been part of the Pathway for the last six years. Vaughan brings an ability to make ground with ball in hand and use his short passing game whilst priding himself on being robust in the scrum.
Ross Batty – Now in his 10th season at the Club, the hooker possesses a wide range of skills, which has served him well in the Blue, Black and White. A genuine running threat, Batty has an eye for the try line, whilst also possessing strong traits at the set piece and maul.
Tom Dunn – One of the toughest competitors, Dunn’s defensive skill set has been crucial in preventing gain line success for opposition teams in both the Premiership and Europe. Also a ball carrier that fights for every metre, Dunn will play a crucial role in the front five this season.
Jack Walker – Walker captained Bath on two occasions in the Premiership Rugby Cup with a strong contribution to the outcome of securing 51/53 line-outs in the four fixtures. A strong leader and communicator, Walker will look to continue his influence on the game through his attacking game as a ball carrier and ball player, and also within the set piece.
Christian Judge – After helping Saracens to a domestic and European double last season,Judge will bring considerable strength and power to the Bath Rugby front row, he will look to dominate the set piece whilst also looking to make the hard yards with ball in hand up front.
Sam Nixon – Nixon possesses considerable power with the ability to operate on both sides of the scrum. The 23 year-old progressed from the Academy to the Senior Squad ahead of the campaign and brings presence to the scrum and driving maul.
Will Stuart – Stuart will provide considerable firepower to the Bath Rugby front row. At 6ft 2 and 133kg, Stuart will look to use his stature and strength in both attack and defence to influence proceedings at the set-piece and in open play. His ability to generate momentum and to score tries when close to the opposition line is a huge strength.
Henry Thomas – Thomas is nearing100 appearance for Bath Rugby bringing experience to the front row, Strong in the scrum, Thomas also looks to make his presence felt when given the opportunity to run with ball in hand.
Levi Douglas – Douglas is a destructive ball carrier, which can create spaces and opportunities for the back line to exploit. The second row has that line speed from his former position as a back rower, which will contribute in nullifying any forward momentum from opposition teams.
Charlie Ewels – The homegrown second rower was named Club Captain ahead of the season and has the leadership skills, which will enable the squad to thrive on and off the pitch. The England international leads by example, putting his body on the line in both attack and defence, with a genuine strength being seen through his work in the attacking breakdown, and ability to lead the line-out.
Matt Garvey – Garvey possesses the attributes to turnover the ball both above the ground and on the floor which in turn develops into scoring opportunities for Bath rugby in transition. The second rower adds to the existing qualities of the second row contingent, and will look forward to bringing his physical presence to the driving maul, in both attack and defence.
Josh McNally – A towering presence at 6ft 7,McNally will add considerable physicality to the Bath pack over the course of the season, whilst playing a key role in the line-out. McNally will be keen to make his mark through his stopping power in defence, and ability to make a dent in the opposition with his ball carries.
Elliott Stooke – An ever-present in the squad since joining from West Country rivals Gloucester in 2016, Stooke possesses the qualities also call the lineout and have an impact on disrupting opposition ball, he will be looking to begin to make his mark with ball in hand and in defence this season, with regard to both stopping opposition momentum, and getting over the gain line in attack.
Mike Williams – The powerful forward is more than capable in both the back row and second row, and is a front five option for the Blue, Black and White this season after signing from Leicester. His hard-hitting style creates the platform for the defence to get on top of opposition teams.