Captain Stuart Hooper makes strong case for Bath Rugby defence ahead of Exeter Chiefs clash
Stuart Hooper wants Bath Rugby to maintain their impressive defensive form when they come face-to-face with the Aviva Premiership's top try scorers at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Exeter Chiefs have crossed the whitewash 29 times in 11 league outings this term, with only champions Harlequins' haul of 27 tries coming anywhere close to that total.
Although Saracens racked up 22 unanswered points at The Rec on Saturday, they scored just one try as Bath's defence continued to look their most promising asset in 2012-13.
Only Sarries have conceded fewer touchdowns than Gary Gold's side, with former England defence coach Mike Ford credited for improving an already stern defensive unit.
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"We've had great defence for the last few years but Fordy coming in has really added something to that," said 31-year-old Hooper.
"It's pushed us forward a bit and given us the ability to defend in different ways, against different teams and in different situations.
"It's given us the ability to change the way we do things but we enjoy defending – that's the big thing.
"We enjoy testing ourselves in that area and so far we've done pretty well.
"When your back is to the wall, it's that moment where you can either take five seconds to get up or bounce straight back to your feet and be ready to go. That's the time when you learn about each other and who wants to put it in.
"The boys have been fantastic so far and really, really good in those tight situations – everyone has really fronted up."
There was no lesser challenge to Bath's defensive capabilities than when they entertained Exeter in late October.
Only a resolute effort ensured they maintained the only perfect Premiership record against the Chiefs since they were promoted in 2010.
"We did really well at the end against Exeter when we were a man down and defended really well at Leicester as well when we were a number of men down," said Hooper, who faces his hometown club this weekend.
"It was an awesome game at The Rec, so much fun to play in. Exeter are the type of side where you know exactly what you are going to get from them. They come at you very hard.
"I never played for Exeter – they were always my rivals as I played for a small club called Crediton – but I enjoy these games, they've got a real derby feel to them.
"We've had some great games against them in the last couple of years. Both sides tend to go out pretty hard and it's a good game to have over the festive period."