Premiership Rugby is back! After a 160-day hiatus Bath finally got kitted up and ran out on to the Rec ready to face London Irish.
It hasn't exactly been the smoothest ride this season and bonus points have been a mystical phenomenon for Bath, needing to get some much-needed points (especially after the last outing down at Sandy Park where a vigorous spanking was administered) Irish seemed like the best place to start.
First of all, I think we should all thank Saracens and their financial irregularities meaning we could welcome Ben Spencer to Bath. And what a performance to have on his debut, an interception try, great game management and accurate box kicking to put Irish under pressure, all in all a breath of fresh air that was very much-needed also awarding him a Man of the Match award.
Five points in the bag after a 34-17 victory and almost the start that was needed for the restart. Spencer grabbing a 70-metre interception run in, 2 rolling mauls from line outs giving Dunn a brace crashing over the line, a borderline pornographic finish from JJ and finally Jack Walker took up the Hooker crashing over role for the 5th try.
Forwards looked an absolute force and will dominate most teams, apart from the backs scratching the butts for large parts of the game due to not receiving much ball plus taking the foot off the gas at the end of each half and conceding a try, all in all, it was a decent win to get back to playing and readying themselves for their road trip.
The gentle break-in is just a teaser for what comes next... A magical mystery tour to the East Midlands! A 300-mile round trip taking in the sunny climes of Leicester, Northampton and back to Bath to take on, the third spoke of the East Midlands wheel, Wasps. Logistics are going to seriously tested for the 9-day Mini-tour, there are many facets that need to be considered and the Bath management have certainly got their work cut out.
First stop is Leicester, nestled near the bottom of the table and quite thankful that Saracens had the book thrown at them several times before getting relegated and giving Tigers welcome salvation. Leicester fell to yet another loss at the weekend but to top of the table Exeter and the favourites for the title, only a miracle would have seen them get a win. With Tigers now sporting a sparkling new coaching set up plus the ability to step up that extra gear against Bath, it would pay to be weary but realistically Bath should be targeting a 5 point win.
Now the fun really starts to begin! A trip down the M1 to face Northampton. Sat one place below Bath, on the same points with one less win after picking up the all-important bonus points, Saints are considered a much stronger opponent than Tigers.
This game is the one that squad will be called into full force given a 4-day turnaround after what will be a brutal battle against Tigers and 5 days before Wasps. Saints were outplayed in most facets of the game against Wasps at the weekend seeing them slip down the table to 6th.
Wasps were a very impressive beast against Saints and will face Bath at the Rec on day 9 of the mini-tour.
A Bath squad returns home back to the Rec hopefully with very few injuries and ready to face the final of the East Midlands posse. This fixture I believe is the one that could make or break Bath's chances of a top 4 spot and the one that the coaching staff will earn their cash.
Considering the space between the games, the time travelling and the strength of the opposition team selection is going to be a very tough gig. To add to that the RFU have joined up with the RPA and come up with a few extra tweaks for "player welfare"
For the 2019-20 season:
• No player will play more than 180 minutes if selected in a matchday 23 on three occasions in a week
• No player will start all three games in a week
• No player will be selected in more than six matches in the seven games between 14 August and 13 September
• A player’s training load will be managed if they are selected in three matchday squads in any given seven-day period
In addition, at the end of the 2019-20 season, there will be:
• A three-week break for all players, except those in the Premiership Final who will receive a two and a half week break and one and a half week preparation for Round one
• No pre-season friendlies for clubs in the Premiership or European finals
• England players will receive a one-week break after England v Italy and two weeks following their return to clubs in December