It is an exciting week for Bath Rugby as they prepare for Saturday's Challenge Cup semi-final against Montpellier.
Director of Rugby Stuart Hooper spoke to the media ahead of the last four clash.
We’ve obviously watched a fair bit of their stuff, albeit with a break over the past two weeks because they’ve not played. We’ve been in this position before against opponents who haven’t played for a couple of weeks and you have to base it on what you’ve seen before.
They’re a quality team. If you look at the players they’ve got and the potential they’ve got, we’re expecting a huge challenge from them. The front five are massive and they have quality and experience of playing in England with Cobus Reinach at nine and Alex Lozowski at 10. They have Premiership experience and then Handre Pollard, who is likely to be back on the bench, has international experience.
On Zach Mercer facing his future club…
He’s been brilliant. The way Zach has developed over the past five or six weeks is a real credit to him. He’s been so focused on the team and what he can do for the team. He was disappointed with the way he played at Wasps because he didn’t give the team what he needed.
His focus this week has been about how he can give this team what it needs to beat Montpellier. He hasn’t looked at it from a kind of ‘this is my new team’ point of view. For him, the story for him is about his teammates at Bath and how he can leave them with the very best impression of him.
On the Rec could have looked and sounded like on Saturday…
It could have been electric, couldn’t it? It would have been exactly what we as a group have fought and worked for… having the Rec full of 14,500 supporters. European nights are very special in Bath and there would have been a healthy contingent of Montpellier fans in the city and stadium, I’m sure.
What it will be like is probably the unfortunate thing of this story. Our guys are now pretty used to playing in an empty stadium but it’s still a huge game, a huge occasion for which they want to demonstrate to everyone watching at home that they are desperate to win and get to the final. It will definitely be lacking our support and the electricity and intensity they bring but that won’t result in any less effort or desire from our players.
On the long wait for a trophy…
What’s important is there is a real desire for the group to win a trophy for themselves. The most important thing for this group of players and staff would be it is something they have done. With that comes the history but more importantly it’s a motivation about what they can achieve together.
For me, my development within the club means I’ve seen a lot of these kind of times and seen a lot of opportunities to win trophies missed. There is a desire for me to win trophies but there is more of a desire for the boys to realise their potential and win trophies in the moment because they are the ones who have to go through the hard work and go toe to toe with the opposition. My role now is to support them, serve them and allow them those moments in the spotlight.