I couldn’t be more excited by the start of the new campaign. I’m sure like for all of you, it’s been a long summer without rugby, so to have two West Country derbies to kick-off our season, it couldn’t get any better.
It’s been a hugely encouraging summer for us, and it’s been refreshing that we’ve been able to train competitively 15 on 15 for the first pre-season since I’ve been here. Having that competition for places will bring the best out of the squad, and also give us that depth which will be crucial in a busy season of domestic and European rugby.
We’ve recruited really well in the off season, and the new faces will not only bring experience, but also added quality to the squad. The team have worked really hard putting new structures into place, which we’ll hopefully reap the rewards from over the course of the next nine months.
We’ve had two good run outs over the last two weeks against Edinburgh and Scarlets, which has given us the chance to dust off the cobwebs. They were two physical contests, which were exactly what we were looking for going into what will be another huge tussle against Bristol on Friday.
I was particularly impressed with the way we mixed up our attack against Scarlets and created space out wide for the likes of Joe Cokanasiga, who showed what he can bring to the team on the wing.
We want the Rec to be a fortress this season, so I’m pleased that we came out with the right mind-set and delivered a strong performance for the supporters.
First and foremost, our focus is on Bristol and making sure we get our season off to a flying start. We are not underestimating the task in front of us – I know Pat will be preparing his team to beat us. It’s a massive game for both sides, and it’s going to be their biggest ever crowd at Ashton Gate, so it’s going to be a huge occasion.
We know that the Bath supporters will travel in force to Ashton Gate, but for those of you that haven’t already bought their ticket; we hope to see you there on Friday evening.
I have no doubt that Bristol will be Premiership ready – with the likes of Steven Luatua, Ian Madigan, and John Afoa in their ranks, they have the ability to test anyone in the competition. Our challenge is to make sure that we execute our basics, but also deliver that consistency in our performances throughout the season.
We hope you enjoy the game and look forward to seeing you at the Rec against Gloucester on Saturday 8th September.