Following yesterday’s update on pre-season block one, Stuart Hooper addresses some questions supporters have been asking.
“The delivery of the Club’s 2019/20 training programme has been over the last six weeks, the planning went on way before that” said Hooper. “There’s been a huge focus around the 10,000 minutes – in every week there is 10,080 minutes. The 10,000 minutes is the domain of the Performance Department and the coaches together to deliver an incredibly coherent training programme so every minute of training is maximised.
“We don’t want them to waste time, we want them to be purposeful, we want them to be developing and getting better every moment they’re on the training field or in the gym. The lads have worked so hard about individualising a programme where they can excel.”
Q: The Rugby Department’s ambition is to maximise the impact of every minute the players spend on the field. How are the coaching team driving each key area of our game model?
It’s a key part of our philosophy around the development of our game. The game model sits centrally to that and everything we do feeds off it in the way that we plan training and the way we develop our practice and the way we condition our players.
The development of our game model has taken place over a long period of time but really zoomed in on it in the off season with the coaches. Understanding how Bath want to play rugby and understanding our intentions with and without the ball and where we go from there.
As it works day-to-day, the game model represents an interaction between every aspect of the game, but we still need responsibility. The guys have worked really hard in their separate areas, so Girvan is continuing to work on our attack and working very closely with Ryan Davis to get the guys we know and love in the Blue, Black and White running down the wing.
Myself, ably assisted by Girvan and Lills (Mark Lilley) are running the defence we’re putting a huge amount of effort into an aggressive defence which gets off the line and gets the ball back to give us those opportunities to attack.
While Neal is at the World Cup, Mark is working really hard at the scrum. He is putting a lot of effort into the new scrum laws that have come in and putting in our adaptation to that on how we’re going to approach the scrum this year.
Luke (Charteris) who we brought on board this year is focusing on the line-out.
“We’re all working together with Pierre (Broncan) out here as well making sure every moment the lads are on the training field is maximised.
Q: It’s clear that temporary coaching support isn’t needed, can you explain why?
It was only going to happen if we found the right person, but also if we felt it was the right thing after we’d been through the process.
It’s really important to realise it isn’t happening and that’s not because we couldn’t find the right person, but we absolutely believe it’s not the right thing to deliver the best programme for the lads.
This a misconception that if you chuck ‘Mr X’, who is a fantastic defence coach in the middle of this it makes your defence better.
As we’ve demonstrated with the game model, there’s a relationship with the whole game as there’s a relationship between a group of staff and 63 players. It’s so much more complex than one person coming in.
We absolutely believe in the people we have on the grass at the moment and the people that can deliver our defence between now and into the season before Neal (Hatley) comes back.
Q: We talk often about the way Bath want to play - can you explain this in more detail?
As our recruitment showed this year, there’s a drive for us to deliver a real high-quality set piece ball. Premiership Rugby is dominated by the quality of possession you start from with line-out and scrum. We’re working very hard at that. We want to deliver that set piece and be uncompromising in attack. We have ways of doing that which you’ll evidently see when we get to the season, but we want to score tries. We want our guys, the likes of Semesa (Rokoduguni), Ruaridh (McConnochie), Joe (Cokanasiga), Anthony (Watson) and J (Jonathan Joseph) with the ball in their hands. We’ve got to do a lot of hard work to make that happen, we can’t just pass them the ball. There’s an attack that’s being built which allows our quality attackers to be in space with ball in their hands. Defensively, we want the ball back. We don’t want to spend ages at the Rec defending.
We want to defend, be aggressive, get the ball back and score.
In line with the game that we want to play, we also talk about the squad that we are building. Can you talk about the changes you have made this season in relation to how the group of 63 players exist together here at the Club?
When we get to full strength there will be 63 players here and there’s a number of ways people do that. My belief is that while there’s a hierarchy which will always exist in any sporting organisation, I don’t want to have any A, B, C of importance. Everybody gets the same opportunity to be the best player they can. Of course, on any given weekend, 23 people will play and that will be the best 23 for that weekend.
We need to grow and deliver a programme, which allows everybody to develop. Equally, previously people have been split up by contract type or such like. The way we see it this year is very much like that there is a senior squad of players and a squad of Academy players. The squad of Academy players are kept separately from an administrative point of view. They’re training out here every day, but sometimes they need to be modified whether it be through their physical condition, university or age grade rugby commitments. We need to keep them separate.
The other guys are in together and they all have the opportunity to pull on the Blue, Black and White shirt and the work they do in training will be recognised. Whether they’ve played 50 caps for their country or their first year out of university, if they are delivering on the training field and in games, they get an opportunity to play for Bath. I think that’s a fundamental shift in what we’re doing and it’s about allowing our guys to develop the very best they can with every moment they’ve got.
And finally, on the 2019/20 Season…
For us it’s a very different season it what we’ve seen before and supporters will be aware of that from the different start times. There are four different Premiership Rugby Cup games before the season starts, and everyone will be aware that there are no pre-season friendlies before that. We will use those Premiership Rugby Cup games to prepare ourselves for the Premiership. Everyone who goes out in those games wants to perform and win for Bath. It’s part of our development for when the Premiership begins again against Bristol. As we go into that, all the lads’ phasing of pre-season will be delivered around when they’re going to play within those four games and when they’re likely to play in the Premiership.
The Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Champion’s Cup are two massively exciting competitions - the two biggest club rugby competitions in the world of which Bath has a tremendously proud heritage. We now want to go out there and attack those competitions and believe that we can go in and win on any given weekend. If we put in the work that the lads are putting in already, continue to build and grow as we hit the Premiership, you’ll see these young men in Blue, Black and White really going out and delivering performances of passion, accuracy and some fantastic wins no doubt.