It is imperative Bath Rugby get off to flying start away at Northampton Saints on the opening weekend of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season as they look to banish the demons of their last campaign – according to new boy Luke Charteris.
By their own admission, a hugely disappointing campaign saw them falter at the wrong end of the league table for the bulk of last season and stutter in Europe.
It has been all change in the West Country with new boss Todd Blackadder arriving to replace Mike Ford, while big-name back rower Taulupe Faletau is one of a host of new faces has helped to raise morale in the camp.
Another new arrival has been giant lock Charteris and he is convinced Blackadder and Bath have done exactly the right blend of business this summer, while also introducing youth to banish the demons of last season.
“When I first started talking to Bath it was before the end of the 2014/15 season,” he revealed.
“They were doing really well and then, after I signed, they got to the final of the Premiership.
“For whatever reasons, they didn’t kick on the way they wanted.
“There are always different reasons for that, but it’s hard for me to say what they were as I wasn’t part of the team.
“Certainly coming in now this year, the boys are at a very high level in training, both physically and mentally.
“It’s a good place to be. There’s a good atmosphere, a good attitude amongst the boys and no-one is really talking or dwelling on what happened last year.
“It’s just a very strong focus on going well in the Premiership this year, getting into the play-offs and, ultimately, you want to be in the Champions Cup. That’s got to be the goal.”
Northampton boss Jim Mallinder is still smarting at his side’s inability to make it all the way to Twickenham last season for the Premiership Final.
A difficult start to the season, which saw the Saints win just one of their first four games, was a contributing factor according to Mallinder and he’s determined to right those wrongs this time around.
The disruption of a home World Cup and a catalogue of absent internationals have not derailed preparations this time around – and Mallinder is determined Northampton will put down an early season marker by downing Bath Rugby on the opening weekend of the season.
“Last season was difficult, we didn’t have the best of pre-seasons and that led to a start when we won one of our first four games – that really does put you on the back foot,” said Mallinder.
“Most of our players have been training hard, some players joining the group a little bit later, but they are really refreshed and have come in and added something new to what we have.
“We have been making sure everyone is fit, robust, ready to play and making sure our tactical game in attack and defence is prepared for a long season.
“We are in a good place and looking for a good start. Bath is vitally important, particularly being at home it is vital that you get off to a flying start.
“We know a lot of the Bath players, but we do not know what style of rugby they will be playing, new coach, new director of rugby.
“We want to work hard and make sure our game is up to speed.”
Referee: JP Doyle (116th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth & Ross Campbell.
TMO: David Sainsbury.
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