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Hooper hails Bath midfield trio

Published 24/05/2015

Stuart Hooper and Bath are one win away from becoming Premiership champions
Stuart Hooper and Bath are one win away from becoming Premiership champions

Bath captain Stuart Hooper has hailed the club's mercurial midfield trio as they continue to sprinkle stardust on a team that is one win away from being crowned English champions.

Hooper and company will head to Twickenham for an appointment with Saracens in the Aviva Premiership final next Saturday after England internationals George Ford, Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph led Leicester another merry dance.

Bath's 47-10 play-off victory meant that Leicester conceded 92 points and 12 tries on two visits to the Recreation Ground this season.

And there is no sign of Bath pressing the mute button on an all-singing, all-dancing game as they target a first Premiership title 11 years after their last Twickenham visit ended with defeat against Warren Gatland-coached Wasps.

"Those guys see the game quite differently to anyone else I have played the game with," Hooper said.

"The likes of Kyle, George and JJ (Joseph), they see it very differently, and I think that gives them a pretty fresh approach.

"They see space well, and when they get into that space they are dangerous.

"The identity of Bath is important. You speak to people who have been coming to the Rec for 30 to 40 years, and they enjoy seeing Bath attack.

"And when players come to training, they like to have the opportunity to attack.

"They like having the opportunity to go out there and say 'you know what, I am not just going to do my job, I am going to prove to anyone that I am the best in the world', and we have got people who can put their hand up and become the best in the world, which is pretty motivating for them."

Ford and Joseph are established as integral England team members in World Cup year, but while inside centre Eastmond was not involved during this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship, he continues to shred opposition defences with remarkable regularity.

"In my opinion, they (Ford, Eastmond and Joseph) are very difficult to play against," Hooper added.

"It depends on how you want to play the game, the structures that England want to play.

"I am a long, long way from selecting an England team, but if they want to play the way we play the game, then those guys are pretty good at it.

"I come into a game, and I don't go into it saying I have got to make sure I am on JJ's shoulder for the outside break or I have got to get with Kyle, there is pressure on me then to deliver at lineout, at kick-offs and scrums and breakdowns.

"We don't feel pressure from the outside, but we put massive pressure on each other during the week. Monday to Friday in training, we go flat out, and when we come to the weekend we say 'this is our stage, let's let it out, let's let it happen'."

When Bath last reached the Premiership final, their team was built around the likes of Mike Catt, Mike Tindall, Jonathan Humphreys and Steve Borthwick, but it is now all about an exciting new generation and a playing brand that continues to gain rave reviews.

And Bath head coach Mike Ford insists it will be business as usual this week, with no changes to the club's tried and tested training routine as they prepare for Twickenham.

"A long time ago (in 2001), I got Oldham to a rugby league grand final, and I changed it that week. I learnt my lessons," Ford said.

"I took the Oldham players away, we trained at different times and we trained a bit longer.

"Sam Burgess said they got it wrong at South Sydney two years ago. They trained too long, and last year when they won the NRL, they kept it relaxed, with short, intense sessions. That is what we have been doing."

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