Saints are 'a top side', says Bath boss Hooper

Bath boss Stuart Hooper has labelled Saints 'a top side' ahead of the meeting between the two clubs at The Rec on Saturday.

By Tom Vickers
Thursday, 10th June 2021, 7:00 am
Stuart Hooper
Stuart Hooper

Hooper's men will be desperate to defeat the black, green and gold to make sure of a place in next season's Champions Cup.

Saints' place in the competition is already secure as they are guaranteed to finish fifth in the Gallagher Premiership.

But Hooper knows that doesn't mean Chris Boyd's men will be easing off in the season finale this weekend.

"I think they looked quite impressive (in the 29-26 defeat) against Exeter," Hooper said.

"They really threw everything at Exeter; their breakdown work was outstanding and when they generate quick ball, I think Dan Biggar showed why he has got his call-up to the Lions.

"Consistently, he has very good decision making around kick, run, pass and keeps the ball in front of Northampton, whether that’s them running on to the ball getting momentum or putting the ball in the corner.

"They’re a top side, they’re a dangerous team and I’m sure they’ll be coming down giving their all."

Bath come into this match having seen last weekend's clash with Gloucester cancelled due to a number of positive Covid-19 tests in the Kingsholm camp.

And Hooper says his club have since taken every possible precaution to make sure the game against Saints goes ahead as planned.

"On hearing the news about the situation at Gloucester it highlights that Covid is still prevalent in the population and we actually tightened up things a fair bit," Hooper said.

"We have been doing the lateral flow testing programme but we but in some extra PCR testing just to make sure we are clear and ready to go this week.

"We have been through all that and we are good to go.

"It was a completely voluntary step but as soon as we heard the Gloucester game was in doubt and there were a number of cases in the game again, for me the number one objective was to have everyone fit and available for the Northampton game so how could we do that?

"Go back to the testing we have used as a gold standard and double up on our PCR tests."

Bath did not want to run the risk of their game against Saints being cancelled, which could open the door for others to overtake them in the race for the Champions Cup.

"The big thing is it is in our hands," said Hooper, whose side currently sit in the final Champions Cup qualification spot but only one point above London Irish and three ahead of Newcastle Falcons.

"Evidently, we are not in the position we want to be in but the position we are in now is we can control whether we play in the Champions Cup next year and that is a massive motivator for everyone involved.

"It is important to us to be in the Champions Cup, both internally and externally, our supporters want to be in the top European competition and as a group we want to be playing in it and challenge ourselves in it, and the players want to be playing in it.

"It is massive and it is something we have spoken about this week and we are looking forward to the challenge.

"European qualification is the outcome we are looking for but the motivation behind this weekend is different for everyone, some players are not going to be here next year, they buy into it and want us to qualify for Europe and say goodbye on the best possible note.

"They want to put in a performance and walk away proud of a level of performance that takes us into the Champions Cup and they can look back on with fond memories."

While Saints have been able to welcome 4,000 supporters to games at Franklin's Gardens during the past two weeks, this weekend's match will finally see Bath open their doors for the first time in 2021.

And Hooper said: "It’s absolutely massive.

"From the moment you walk into The Rec, there is a different feeling when the supporters are there. It adds a completely different feel.

"Credit to our players, and the away players, because it’s been very, very different coaching and working in front of no supporters.

"It can’t come quickly enough.

"We’ll have 3,000-odd this weekend but let’s hope we can ramp it up quickly because they are very much needed for all sorts of reasons – the main one being the support and energy they give our stadium at the weekend.

"It’s really nice for the supporters to be able to say goodbye to the boys that are leaving and that’ll be very special too."