It’s one of the most hotly-anticipated rivalries of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season, and Bath Rugby’s Jonathan Joseph believes his side are in the best shape they can possibly be to make the trip to Leicester Tigers.
The two will face off at Twickenham for The Clash in April, but Sunday sees Joseph and co. put their 100 per cent winning season to the test at Welford Road – a ground where success has been a long time in coming.
A 21-11 defeat last November continued a disappointing run away from the Rec for Bath, although they were able to inflict a 45-0 rout over the Tigers at home in the previous season, while also getting the better of the Midlanders in the Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final.
But despite not prevailing at Welford Road in league action since 2003, Joseph believes the 14 points from their first three games of the campaign leaves them in a strong position to right those wrongs.
“We looked at our first four or five games and Leicester away is a massive part of that, if we come away with a result there then it sets you up in really good stead for the season,” he said.
“We’ve had a few injuries, but the boys who have come in have really stepped up, and that just goes to show the strength in depth we have in the squad.
“We’ve now got a great opportunity to go up there and put in a good performance, we’ve had three good games and there are many things we can work on which is very exciting for us.
“At present time this is the best position we can be going up there. This is a great opportunity, and hopefully we can go up there and play in the same way we have been over the past couple of weeks and really put it to them.”
The two sides will face off at Twickenham in Round 19 of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season, as part of a five-year programme which will see Todd Blackadder’s side take one of their home games away from the Rec and to the home of rugby.
And a chance to play a close rival is the perfect way to begin The Clash for Joseph, who insists there is still plenty of work to do on the pitch – starting this weekend.
He added: “Leicester are up there as one of our biggest rivals in the Aviva Premiership. There are a number of tough teams, but the history behind the two clubs is huge, the fixture has been going on for years and years and it’s a huge challenge for us.
“It’s a must-win (on Sunday) if we want to keep this momentum going. The way we were last season was disappointing, but to bounce back so quickly and put three good wins together puts us is in a good place if we can get that fourth.
“I’d be pretty disappointed if we weren’t in the top four come the end of the season, it’s certainly something which I feel is achievable with this squad and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be there if everything pulls together.”
For further information, visit www.bathrugby.com/theclash