Director of Rugby Stuart Hooper spoke to the media ahead of Bath Rugby’s Round 15 Gallagher Premiership match against London Irish.
The presser was dominated by the recent news of Danny Cipriani joining the Blue, Black and Whites with Hoops also explaining his philosophy when it comes to developing players to become the best they can be.
On news of Danny Cipriani joining Bath Rugby…
It’s been a thorough process to get to where we are with Danny. We’re delighted to announce he’s coming to the club in May. He’s somebody whose skillset has been evident for all to see across the different teams he’s played for and to complement what we’ve got, and to help develop what we’ve got as well, he’s absolutely the right person.
He’s very diligent, he looks after himself and the experience side of it was key and really important for us. If you look at the demographic of our squad, we’ve brought the age down considerably over the last three years and it’s important that there is age but Premiership experience at 10 was a prerequisite.
He’s been on the radar for a long time and we’re pleased to get it done at the right time.
On the development of our young players…
A key part of anyone’s development is to have a mentor. From a personal experience, the guys who helped me when I first became a professional… Danny Grewcock and Richard Hill at Sarries, those guys had a huge impact on my career on and off the field.
Orlando is a strong young man; he’s tremendously driven. Very conscientious, a good professional, a genuine Bath man and to have that somebody to continue his development, because Rhys has done a brilliant job with him already, is the next step for Landi and he’ll be keen to learn as much as he can.
We have a number of younger players, specifically at 10 with Orlando and in a number of other positions as well with the likes of Max Ojomoh and some back three players (who will benefit from Cipriani’s experience). A very big part of what we’re doing is developing our own players. We want to develop that homegrown pool of talent. Some of that is about playing and some of that is experience of being out in the middle in the Premiership. Some of that is understanding what it takes to be a very top-level professional.
Whenever we bring somebody into the club in a key position, with 10 being one of them, I always see that part of their role is a legacy effect. How can they make the people around them better? People probably dismiss it a bit but for me it’s not about taking away from you as a performer – Anthony Watson for example is a top-level international performer; he gets better by helping the people around him. He gets better by helping the younger wingers and that’s what I see in Danny and the opportunity to come in and do the same with our young players, not just 10s but across the backline.
If I’m honest, my philosophy around how I lead this group, both staff and players, is to give them head room to develop and to grow. I want to set an environment where everyone can be the best they can be whether that be from Byron as our Head of Medical or Hats as our Head Coach or Ewelsy as captain.
It’s not about just doing what you want and when you want. There’s absolutely a rigour to what we do. Equally there’s not a strait jacket; it’s not ‘you have to do this… if you don’t do this you won’t get picked’. I don’t work like that; I don’t believe it’s the answer. I can’t stand in front of a room of players like we have at Bath, who have an ambition to be the best players in the world, both individually in their positions and as a team, and put them in a tiny little box and say ‘do this’. That applies to everyone whether it’s Charlie Ewels with the line-out or Anthony Watson on a kick counter from full-back or wing.
That’s my philosophy. I believe the same thing for Danny. I want him to come here and be the absolute best version of himself within our team.
On where Bath are right now…
I think if I reflect on where we have been over the last few weeks and more importantly the energy and the work the lads are doing in the week, I feel like we’re in a strong position. We’re in seventh place with some good games to come. Most of our squad are back on deck now and pretty healthy so I think we’re in a good position to go week to week.
The players massively respond to a week-to-week focus. This week is London Irish and we’ll do everything we can to win that game. If we win that game, we’ll be one step closer, but I believe we can push on and I believe we can make the top four.