As it's edging ever closer to dusting of the hip flask, scarf, hat and mittens today we saw the release of the Aviva Premiership 2012/13 season.
A release of new fixtures always aides the pundits within us all and begin the speculations of how the campaign will pan out. Bath fans expectations are riding high as always, a crowd with an immense sense of belief. With the new coaching regime the support for the club is rife. Bath are stepping into unknown this season and the hope is to hit the ground running and build up morale so the momentum continues to flow.
Hard fought pre-season fixtures will ensure a good bond for the players and coaching staff. Hopefully developing a strong platform to lead them into a season that primarily could see a return to the dizzy heights of the upper quadrant of the table.
London Welsh now confirmed as a premiership side will try to demonstrate their right to be there. A good spring board for Bath Rugby to lead into the Welsh pairing of the Osprays and Cardiff Blues. Two strong welsh sides who would give any premiership side a hard fought battle. The pre-season fixtures are always important but seem so much more poignant this year, more the discovery of a team rather than an exhibition of rugby.
Bring forth August 31st and it's game time, the dawn of the new season and a trip up to Worcester for Bath. Last season's trip to Sixways was a performance the majority of fans wish to forget. Potentially one of Bath's worse displays for some time going down 16-7. The saving grace of the fixture was the TMO awarded try for Charlie Beech, allowing at least something on the board. Warriors finished up in 10th two places beneath Bath so potentially a good baptism fixture for Bath's campaign, as long as they don't repeat last season.
The first outing on the Rec for the Blue, Black and white is game two. Pitting their wits against the only just surviving London Wasps. Wasps managed by the skin of their teeth to salvage their top flight status by narrowly pipping Falcons to the penultimate side in the league, eventually seeing Falcons becoming a championship side. A few significant signings going Wasps way may see them have a stronger season and dig theirselves out of the bottom of the pile.
With two of what people may consider to be easier fixtures (but do not underestimate) out of the way then enter the arena.... Saints. Bath's last premiership encounter with Northampton at the Rec was not of the prettiest scoreline, Bath going down to the sound of a 6-26 defeat. Saints finished the quartet of sides in the playoffs although being eight points adrift or third place Sarries. If the two opening fixtures see Bath taking the the victories it could see them in good stead for the Saints bout.
What has become very apparent through all the fixture list for Bath is the end of the season will be no easy running. To face Quins away, Tigers at home then the finale against Sarries away is no mean feat to say the least. The last three premiership champions back-to-back will take a huge effort from any team, hopefully by then Bath should of done enough to ensure at least a top four Finnish.
The expectations are their for the new beginning let's hope the reality is aswell.