Tuesday, 25 August 2020

An interview With Bath Rugby's DOR Stuart Hooper - Tom Dabinett

As with every Premiership Rugby team, Bath Rugby have had to deal with the new safety regulations and precautions surrounding the world of sport and Covid-19. 
Every day is a new challenge. From when Bath returned to Farleigh house in groups during phase one of the return to training procedure. Social distancing had to be strictly adhered to. One way systems were introduced as where hand sanitising stations. 
Last week Director of Rugby Stuart 
Hooper gave up a few minutes of his 
valuable time and I asked him about 
the return to training, the restart of the 
Premiership and managing player workload. 
TD: What has it been like adjusting to 
the Covid-19 regulations and how well 
have the players responded and 
adapted to what you have asked of 
them?
SH: So first and foremost there’s lots of changes, the training ground looks different. I guess the one-way system and the social distancing that everyone experiences in supermarkets and cafes, 
that exists here as well. What we have to do is mitigate the risk of transmission, so within training there are bits we have to do. So obviously scrums, contact and that kind of stuff, but outside of that, it’s very much as per government guidance. Making sure there’s hand gel available, making sure there are oneway systems and people aren’t sitting together for lunch. It’s really different, really different for the guys but what we try to do is make sure we are on top of all of that so the training remains as consistent as possible. we make it's as safe as possible, so when the lads are on the field they can have the freedom to go and play. 
TD: On the subject of the players being able to go out and play, empty stadiums must really be strange. I know myself from watching the game on Saturday (London Irish game) I found it really strange, but from another point of view it might be easier for yourself and the players to communicate with each other on the pitch?
SH: Yeah there's definitely an element of that combination. The bench and the players on the side of the pitch can hear a lot more. Communication in that regard is easier. It is strange though like you said, you used the word strange, it's definitely weird. For years we all experienced the Rec when there’s a good tackle or a try the cheer that associates it, you find yourself looking around thinking where is it, it’s really bizarre. When any of us have been there before it'ss with a crowd so its a hugely different experience. 
TD: Is it harder to motivate the players and get them up for the game knowing there’s no crowd there? As like you said the atmosphere would obviously spur the guys. How has that been a disadvantage?
SH: 100% we’d much rather be playing there with supporters, and hopefully we can get people back into sporting events as soon as possible. I mean we and the players love the support at the Rec. The genuine 16th man moments when they get us over the line or they make that try-saving tackle for us, so it'ss allowing us to really energise ourselves which is good, because when we come back and lay the crowd on top of that, you know, we get another kick again. We can't wait for the day when we’ve got the supporters back in the stadium but for now we’re energising ourselves and making sure the moments in our game really push us through. 
TD: Okay, so one last question. With the fixture list being so congested, are you confident as a coaching team and as a playing group you are on top of game time and workloads and have you had any conversations with England regarding that as well as some of the guys will be away taking part in internationals and finishing the Six Nations?
SH: Our focus is obviously on Bath but lots of our guys will be involved with England. So we talk with Eddie and make sure our players have looked after. First and foremost for us, we want them to perform for us they want to perform for us. We’ve done a lot of work on what it looks like for the individual players and what their game time could look like. We have a plan but it'ss important we can react and guys can earn a right to play as well through training and what they do here at Farleigh. 
 Once again a massive Thank you to Shula from the comms department and Stuart for giving up his time to talk to me. 
(images from Bath Rugby)
Written by @tomdabs for BathBytes

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