Tom Bradshaw: Schedule has done Bath no favours
Spare a thought over the next few days for Bath's rugby operations manager, Dave Guyan. In what is no doubt proving to be a logistical nightmare, Bath play two different continental sides in the space of five days.
Bath's opening two rounds of the Amlin Cup will see them zig-zag around Europe as though on a very ambitious tour.
It's Bucharest on Saturday, followed by Agen in France in Thursday. It must have been tempting to fit in a bit of central European sightseeing in the intervening few days, but it will be back to Bath straight after the Bucharest match before flying out to Agen midweek.
This fixture schedule is not ideal for Bath. I doubt it was on the agenda when European rugby chiefs met in Rome on Monday, but this cramped planning does not do European rugby's second-tier competition any favours.
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Rugby coaches do not like short turnarounds. A match every seven days is fine; if they see a six-day gap they start to frown; a five-day turnaround is likely to bring on the sweats.
Players needs time to recover between matches. Rugby is not football, where it's usually only the lungs that need to recover. A professional rugby club's physio department is a busy place during a standard week, so it will be fair to say the physios will be earning their corn at Bath next week.
And that's not least because Bucharest will understand that there's only way they are likely to have any chance of getting something from their match with Bath – and that's by roughing up their English opposition. The Bath pack can expect a lively welcome during the opening exchanges.
A conundrum for the Bath coaches to wrestle with is who they should pick for the game in Romania. After six weeks of back-to-back Premiership action, one school of thought is that Bath should give their big guns a game off before the Premiership recommences on October 27, when Exeter visit The Rec. And with Agen being on paper the tougher European prospect, perhaps it will be the Bucharest match that sees Bath put out a younger team.
But if pursued, this approach could backfire should the Romanians' batter-and-boss- them strategy succeed. It's a tough one to call and it will be interesting to see how head coach Gary Gold plays it.
What of the Premiership? The opening six rounds posed more questions than they answered, with no side unbeaten. Looking close to home, Bath's overall direction of travel has been positive. They began with real venom at Kingsholm and showed more than a smidgen of pluck and fortitude in the second half. It was far from magnificent, but there are some encouraging signs.
Just five points behind second-placed Harlequins, Bath will have everything to play for once they return to the Premiership. There's just the small matter of that European tour first.