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Hooper: development

By P G Tips
January 24 2018

After frustration and disappointment in Europe, Bath get a chance to refresh against Newcastle on Saturday. Clubs often use the Anglo Welsh Cup to rest key players, experiment with new combinations and develop academy talent. Bath, with a lengthy injury list, plus international absences, must be tempted to wrap fit key men in cotton wool to save them for Premiership games in the 6 Nations period. All those injuries restrict selection though and this cup could also be the best chance of silverware for Bath this season. It will be fascinating to see how the coaches balance those factors in their lineup to be announced on Friday    

Seventeen senior squad members are on the injured list, six of them full internationals and a further eight with other representative credentials in B, U20 or sevens teams. While there is good news on the progress of long term injured Batty, Attwood and Clark they are unlikely to be ready in time and Obano, Lahiff and Cook will not be risked either. One player that should be available though is Shaun Knight and there could be chances for some players who have begun few matches this season, but shown mettle when needed – notably Douglas, the Wilsons, Lewis and Atkins. There are bound to be changes and these will prolong the challenge of consistency, which has dogged the squad all season.


Whatever the selection, which will be coached by Stuart Hooper as part of his development plan, they will face a Newcastle team who are taking this competition seriously. They lead their pool with maximum points and the healthiest points difference of all four groups. Indeed, Falcons are flying well in all competitions, with a hundred per cent record in the European Challenge Cup and lying sixth in the Premiership, a single point behind Bath, but tellingly with one more victory to their name. The pairing of Challenge Cup and Anglo Welsh in the calendar allows them the luxury of consistent selection without dependence on their international squad members. Men to look out for up front are likely to be Socino, Hogg, Cavubati, Latu and Mark Wilson, while behind the scrum they can call on Michael Young, Hodgson, Flood, Goneva, Matavesi and Tait. The Falcons seem to be hovering and poised to pounce.


Bath rediscovered their try scoring habit in Treviso last week, made hay with their driven lineout maul and tidied their offloading game. With five tries bagged at half time a cricket score seemed on the cards. That it did not come was down to defensive sloppiness, which handed the initiative back to their hosts. Hooper and co will be working to deny Falcons similar chances. The forecast is for drizzle, which should suit the visitors, so control and accuracy  –especially in tactical kicking- will be essential. Bath may be fielding a makeshift side, but there is ample motivation for the newcomers: a chance to secure a run of games in 6 Nations time, contract renewal or for those moving on, to impress known or potential new employers. Bath will need to gel quickly if they are to clip the Falcons' wings.




Possible Bath Team:

Noguera, V Vuuren, Nixon, Douglas, Stooke, Garvey (Capt.), Bayliss, Phillips. Allinson, Lewis. Davis, Tapuai, Jack Wilson, Banahan. James Wilson.

Replacements: Auterac, Charles, Knight, Charteris, Reid. Fotuali’I, Burns, Atkins.




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24/01/2018 10:29
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