Stuart Hooper has described the limbo experienced by his Bath squad at the start of this week as unique, the club not knowing if they had a Gallagher Premiership semi-final at Exeter this Saturday to prepare for.
Bath’s draw at Saracens last Sunday meant their play-off qualification fare lay in the hands of Sale, whose match against Worcester had been postponed and rescheduled for Wednesday due to a major Covid-19 outbreak in their ranks.
That left fourth-place Bath unsure if they had a semi-final play as a Sale win would have eliminated them. However, it eventually emerged that their play-off rivals had suffered a further eight positive tests, bring their Covid-19 tally to 27.
It resulted in the match being officially cancelled on Wednesday morning, allowing Bath to press ahead with preparations for a trip to Sandy Park and a first semi-finals appearance since 2015.
“It was evidently a thorough process taking into account all the factors, health and safety being the number one, and I believe they made the right decision,” said Hooper, reflecting on Thursday on the controversy that threw the Premiership into chaos.
“As rugby clubs around the country we are probably in our most dangerous period – and I include us in that”
– The feeling from Exeter as the 2019/20 season comes down to the wire in England and Europe with instances of Covid-19 on the rise at large https://t.co/YWu90Lb0tk
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 8, 2020
“It’s interesting. After the Saracens game, the only thing that happened was we drew the game which meant that our destiny within the competition was taken out of our hands and that was tough. But we very quickly switched to understanding that if we do go through the only team we can play is Exeter.
The guys, to be fair, had that moment of disappointment but then we spoke in the changing room and said, ‘We can’t waste two days here, we’re got to recover and we have got to emotionally get ourselves in a place where we are ready to go to win a semi-final on Saturday’.
“So they switched pretty quickly. The waiting around on Monday and Tuesday was unique and challenging but we remained confident the right decision would be made and prepared for Exeter.”
Bath will go there adamant they can win despite Exeter being clear favourites to lift the title. “Definitely (Bath can win),” insisted Hooper. “I have got no doubt that they can be beaten at Sandy Park. They are aiming to get in their fifth final in a row, so they are a consistent team but they are beatable for sure.
“It’s understanding our game, it’s understanding the areas of our game that we can influence what they are trying to do. They are a quality team, they have been a quality team for a long time and they have got a strong identity. It’s a big challenge but an exciting one and the group that we have got now, they relish that type of challenge.”
Refusing to twist the knife https://t.co/TjQVj9IuqC
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 7, 2020
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