New Bath Rugby captain Guy Mercer has hailed the “positive atmosphere” at the club that has seen them win all three of their pre-season matches including a 19-39 victory in Dublin against Leinster last weekend.
New Zealand duo Todd Blackadder and Tabai Matson were confirmed as coaches at the end of July, with the former coming in as Director of Rugby after eight seasons in charge of the Crusaders in Super Rugby.
Whilst it wasn’t an orthodox pre-season, 26-year-old flanker Mercer believes the experience brought out some of the leadership qualities in the team, and with an opening game away at Northampton Saints on the first Saturday of the season, Bath need to hit the ground running.
He explained: “It’s a slightly different way to begin a pre-season but it’s been really positive.
“I think lots of the senior boys really stepped up in the early period.
“Now we’ve got our coaching structure locked in, the atmosphere is very positive and we’re ready to crack on with the Premiership games.
“It was frustrating (last season) but there have been some good foundations put in place over the last couple of seasons. The other thing with not being as successful as we wanted is that we’ve learned a lot.
“There’s a number of positives we’ve taken out. We’ve kept Stuart Hooper in the background and he’s going to help grow the culture and he’s going to work with Todd, Tabai and the coaches that we’ve got here already in Boothy (Toby Booth) and Darren Edwards.
“We’re very focused on a positive start to the year. We’ve got Northampton first up and we’ve had some massively attritional games against those boys, they are a very well-drilled side.
“We are looking forward to getting out at Franklin’s Gardens. At that time of the year it will be a lovely field so hopefully we can get some of our quick boys to go out and do their thing.”
Mercer will have a big part to play in leading Blackadder’s Bath as they look to get back to the form that led to an Aviva Premiership Rugby Final appearance in 2015.
And in Stuart Hooper, the former Bath skipper who has now taken on a role behind the scenes, Mercer has an experienced head to call on whenever necessary.
He added: “I’m buzzing about (being captain). I’m hugely privileged to have been asked to do it, especially with the group that’s been constructed around here.
“That’s the main thing I’m excited about. I’ve been a sort of wider leadership role, so to be asked to do the captaincy has been massive for me.
“I’m always going to be speaking to Hoops, he did that role so trying to step up to it is a big, big challenge and I’m going to have to try to get a few hints and tips along the way.
“I’m not going to try to change too much. I’ve been relatively vocal in the past anyway. What’s nice about having to step up at this time in particular, is when you look across the squad, there’s a number of people you can share the workload with.”
Aviva Premiership Rugby returns this weekend. For a full fixture list please click here