Four new coaches will be gracing Aviva Premiership Rugby in 2016/17, but Bath Rugby fans will be most excited about former All Black captain Todd Blackadder’s arrival at the Rec.
Formerly of the Crusaders, the powers that be at Bath decided the 44-year-old was the man to lead their young English core back to the play-offs just a year after reaching the Twickenham final.
He arrives with immense pedigree, having led the Super Rugby province over seven seasons, reaching the final on two occasions, and only missing the play-offs once – and Northampton Saints are the first challenge the Kiwi will face in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
A man cited by Ritchie McCaw as one of the greatest influences on his career, Blackadder is hoping to have the same galvanising effect on the West Country outfit and admits he feels right at home already.
“It’s been fantastic so far,” he said. “I’ve been here a couple of weeks now and while that may not sound like a long time, I’ve been made to feel very welcome since I arrived.
“We’ve already been away for pre-season games and I’ve got to know all the lads, and I have to say I’ve been very impressed.
“It’s a great group who just want to work hard, so I feel like I’ve been here for six months already!
“No-one in the organisation at all has really spoken about last year. Everyone went through a bit of adversity, and I sense that if anything there is a little bit more steel that’s come out of that.
“My focus is only on the future and making sure we are as well prepared as we can be for this week, so we’ll be looking to nail the performance side of things as we don’t have the time for anything else.”
Blackadder arrives with highly-respected assistant Tabai Matson, who is also vastly-experienced within Kiwi rugby and will be looking to bring all that knowledge to the English game.
And between them, Blackadder is confident they have the quality at Bath already to make a big impact on the Aviva Premiership Rugby standings come the end of season.
He added: “Every week you’ve got to put your very best on the line, go out there and perform, and this is a new team with new goals and a new ambition.
“We’ve been putting in some big shifts and making sure we’re really well aligned with how we want to play.
“We’re lucky; we’ve got some great eights, nines and tens who are of international quality – that’s key to the spine of any side.
“I’m really excited to be coaching in Aviva Premiership Rugby – it’s a great opportunity for me. When I had to make the decision to come over here, the thing that excited me the most was this competition.
“It’s going to be hard every single week in this league, but that excites me, and it’s great for me to be able to come in and continue my development in a new competition.”
Aviva Premiership Rugby returns this weekend. For a full fixture list please click here