BATH RUGBY: ‘We must take our chances

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Stuart Hooper is poised to make his 200th Premiership appearance tonight Stuart Hooper is poised to make his 200th Premiership appearance tonight

CLUB captain Stuart Hooper has urged Bath to seize the opportunities presenting themselves at the end of a season of great progress at the Rec.

Lock Hooper, who is poised to make his 200th Premiership appearance against Northampton this evening, has already guided his side into the final of the Amlin Challenge Cup, with the play-offs beckoning if they can lower the Saints’ colours in their final home match of the campaign (7.45pm).

With a young squad, Bath have made great strides forward this season as head coach Mike Ford and his staff plot the route to sustained success.

Despite the longer-term aims, former Leeds forward Hooper, 32, doesn’t want the squad to let the opportunity of getting their hands on some silverware slip through their fingers this time around.

Bath have not won a major domestic honour since 1996, while it’s six years since they lifted the Amlin trophy.

Hooper said: “I just think it would be foolish of us to look to next year, or the year after, or the year after that because ultimately we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.

“We might not be in this position again. The message to each other is ‘why wait.’ “We’re pleased to get to the final of the Amlin but we’ve parked that now massively and we know we’re back in the Premiership and know the importance of our last two games.

“We realise the ability the squad has got and the pressure we put on each other in training has kept us there.

“The coaches have been fantastic, looking for new ways to do things the whole time, keeping us fresh, challenging us and I think all those things added together have kept us in the top three of four of the Premiership all year.

“You don’t want to drag it out any longer than you have to. If we could get it done this weekend it will be happy days. We’ve done everything we can in training and we’ll give it our all on Friday night.’’

Hooper admits leading Bath’s impressive bid for honours this season has also boosted his own fortunes as he closes in on his league appearance landmark.

“It literally feels like yesterday that I started,’’ he added.

“I’m pleased – it’s a great competition and it’s something I’m looking forward to doing.

“This year, I’ve felt good. You can always get yourself in the right place to play the games, but it’s whether you can get through the training and I’ve been pretty good this year, getting myself prepared and ready for the weekend games.

“I’m enjoying it more than ever too, so that’s a good sign.’’

  •  BATH have reacted to their small ticket allocation for the Amlin Challenge Cup final in Cardiff on May 23 by entering all interested season ticket holders and members into a ballot.

The club could receive as few as 1,000 tickets for the final at the 12,000-capacity Cardiff Arms Park, with the club’s ballot set to be drawn next Friday, May 9.

For details on how season ticket holders and members can declare their interest, see bathrugby.com.

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