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The dressing room message that got Bath over the line against Irish in Europe 12 days after losing to them in the Premiership

By Liam Heagney

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Bath demonstrated an ability to quickly learn from adversity last weekend, comfortably defeating London Irish 26-13 in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals twelve days after they were beaten 33-36 by the Exiles in the Gallagher Premiership. Boss Stuart Hooper made five changes to the Bath starting XV for the rematch.

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Two of the switches were forced by the suspensions to Tom Dunn and Will Muir following indiscipline at Brentford, but that didn’t stop Hooper from delivering a forceful message to the chosen players in the build-up to the quarter-final and it seemingly played a part in getting a better result the second time around against the Exiles. 

What motivated Hooper was that there were a number of players in the Bath squad who have had no rugby this past year due to the pandemic cancellation of ancillary tournaments such as the Premiership Cup and the Shield, a tightening that has heaped pressure on first-team selection and limited opportunity. 

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Kurtley Beale guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload with Simon Zebo and Ryan Wilson
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With this inactivity in mind, he called on the players picked to play Irish to remind themselves how fortunate a position they were in to be chosen and to go out and win on behalf of those players whose year has been restricted to training at a time when the club are making huge financial losses.

“Without the Prem Rugby Cup and the Shield some of these guys have not played rugby for twelve months,” explained Hooper at his weekly media briefing ahead of a weekend where a friendly was sanctioned for this Friday against Gloucester to finally get some of his fringe players back on the field prior to Sunday’s Premiership clash with Leicester.

“Before we played London Irish in the quarter-finals, I said to them how very aware I was that I have now stood in front of you as a group of players for over a year and named teams every week and some of you have not been in any of them. I said to the (picked) players and the staff, ‘Please put yourself in the shoes of the players who haven’t been named in a team for a whole year, just think about that for a second’. 

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“That is why we are going to put the effort into putting these fixtures (against Gloucester) on, giving these guys the opportunity – not to placate them but to give them the opportunity to fight for a jersey in the first team. We talk about the season tailing off: we have played 17 games but there is still a potential ten games to go. There is still a fair way to go and we want to make sure we remain competitive through that period of time.”

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The dressing room message that got Bath over the line against Irish in Europe 12 days after losing to them in the Premiership

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