Bath Rugby coach Neal Hatley predicts a battle with former club London Irish
Bath Rugby have a fight on their hands if they are to make it six wins on the bounce this weekend, according to forwards coach Neal Hatley.
Hatley has a host of first-experience of Bath’s latest opponents, London Irish, who travel to The Rec on Saturday (2.15pm).
The former prop spent a decade as a player with the Berkshire club and was Academy manager for four years before moving to The Rec along with former Irish head coach Toby Booth last summer.
Although Bath enter the Aviva Premiership clash on the back of five straight wins, that will count for nothing against an Irish side who have also improved recently.
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“London Irish have lost one game since the start of the year and they have got some unbelievably good players that belie where they are in the league,” said Hatley, who played down the impact his and Booth’s knowledge will have on the game.
“To score 30 points against Saracens is no mean feat, so we are going to have to be sharp again to get the result we are looking for.
“We know them probably better than most because of the coaches here but I don’t think having worked there is too much of an advantage.
“Six months is such a long time and you are constantly evolving in the game.”
Bath suffered a 29-22 defeat when they travelled to the Madejski Stadium in September and Carl Fearns says Bath are desperate to make amends for a poor performance.
“We let ourselves down last time and we didn’t quite turn up,” said flanker Fearns.
“We let a few points go and we’ve got to make sure we get it right this week to carry through the momentum we’ve built up.
“There is a massive buzz at the moment and we’ve made great strides in attack.
“The positions we got ourselves in at the start of the season which we weren’t quite finishing, now we’ve got the confidence to take them.
“We’re going into this week confident but we are still hurting from our last result against them.”
Bath have props Davey Wilson and Paul James available to them from England and Wales Six Nations duty respectively but Hatley says scrum-half Michael Claassens is still not fit after a hand injury. Simon Taylor or Ryan Caldwell are also not expected to feature.
“We just don’t want to push Michael because he will be a key player for us later on in the season,” said Hatley.
“It’s one of those injuries that you know if you just push too hard now you can be knocked back another five or six weeks. We just don’t want to take that risk.”