Club-by-club guide: Bath

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Head Coach: Steve Meehan

Captain: Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett

IN

Stuart Hooper (Leeds), Justin Harrison (Ulster), Shontayne Hape (Bradford Bulls), Scott Bemand (Leicester)

OUT

Steve Borthwick (Saracens), Olly Barkley (Gloucester), Nick Walshe (Bedford coach), Isaac Feaunati (retired), Luke Cozens (Bridgwater and Albion - loan)

First five games

Sep 7 Bristol (A)

Sep 13 Gloucester (H)

Sep 20 London Irish (A)

Sep 27 Worcester (H)

Oct 1 London Wasps (A)

Lessons from last season

Bath were a side transformed last season and a joy to watch, before falling in the play-off semi-finals. They will look to develop the mental toughness and killer instinct required to kill off teams and turn considerable possession into points. Steve Meehan’s boys had the lion’s share of possession in a late-season clash with Gloucester and in the play-off semi-final with Wasps yet they lost both games and scored just one try in the process. They need to remember how good it felt to lift silverware for the first time in 10 years (European Challenge Cup) and carry that success into 2008-09.

Weaknesses

The uncertainty surrounding The Rec is damaging Bath on the pitch. Steve Borthwick and Olly Barkley left after making a few choice comments about the club’s facilities and ambitions, and Matt Stevens (left) has also warned that things need to improve or he’s off as well. On the pitch, Bath need more cutting edge for the finishing touches to their exquisite approach play.

Strengths

There were times last season when Bath just made you sit back and purr. Steve Meehan’s men keep the ball alive at all costs, throw it around with care-free abandon and score plenty of points. Oh, and they know how to mix it physically as well with an imposing, aggressive pack.

Player to watch

Hardly seems fair does it? A 6ft 7in behemoth who weighs in at more than 17st should not be playing on the wing. Matt Banahan (below), the former Jerseyborn lock, is a nightmare for Premiership defenders and is an imposing sight in full flight. At just 21 years of age, his best years are ahead of him and his recent displays for the England Saxons hint at an international future. Scored 10 tries in 14 league starts last season.

Did you know?

Bath Rugby’s Recreation Ground is the only stadium in the Guinness Premiership that has a public footpath running through it.

Prediction

Losing Barkley and Borthwick are massive blows to a club punching above their financial weight.

6th

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