Stuart Hooper is hoping that the relentless work ethic of England scrum-half Ben Spencer will rub off on those around him at Bath and lift the club from a winter slump that has seen them win just once in four attempts in the Gallagher Premiership and lose their Heineken Champions Cup match versus Scarlets.
Bath took off after the original lockdown in England like a runaway train, an impressive run of August/September results taking them all the way into the semi-finals of the restarted 2019/20 season. However, they have been slow to rekindle that form since the late November start to the 2020/21 season.
Last Sunday’s loss at Leicester was an example of their struggle, giving up a 14-point lead to lose by five. However, the impact Spencer has had since his arrival during the first lockdown on a three-year deal from Saracens has Hooper sounding confident that things will come right, starting with Friday night’s visit by Wasps to The Rec.
Asked about the influence of Spencer, who played for England off the bench in the November 2019 World Cup final in Japan and has since played 14 times for Bath and scored six tries, Hooper said: “He is a leader, a leader within the squad, and we see leaders in many different guises.
“Ben is demanding of himself and of others. He is also very driven and competitive. He has had a big impact on the squad. He has come from an environment where they have been successful, he has won trophies, and he has got the experience needed to be a leader.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 6, 2021
“When I say that he shows people the way he works, that allows him to get to the levels he gets to. Like this week he was frustrated with areas of his game from Sunday and how he has fixed that has been to get in on Monday and start working straight away.”
A more consistent attack edge is what Hooper is searching for overall from his team. “It’s something that we need to develop. For all the talk last year around our forward pack and the dominance that they had, that was very true… but as a team, we want to develop our attacking game, we want to develop the accuracy of what we are doing.
“If you look at the weekend, Ben Spencer’s try was an outstanding try but it wasn’t an outstanding attack, it was an individual try. Where we are working is building our ability to create space. We have a strong forward pack but that doesn’t mean it will work.
“We have to deliver the ball that we know can in the pack and then we have to have an accuracy in the backs that allows us to create space. It’s not just about giving the ball to a good player. It just doesn’t work, defences are too good. It’s about having an attack that allows us to create space and make space when it is not naturally there.”
"Do I understand why other people would say we need to do this because otherwise we might be financially struggling?
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 7, 2021
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