Toby Booth: Bath must keep in touch with Aviva Premiership leading pack
First-team coach Toby Booth says Bath cannot afford to lose any more ground to the Aviva Premiership’s pace-setters.
Bath are already seven points adrift of the league’s top four sides and travel to fifth-placed Wasps on Sunday.
A return to the Heineken Cup has been the club’s primary target this term and defeat would make it a big ask for that to be achieved through their final league position, which requires a top-six finish.
Booth says it is vital for Bath to still be in touch with the pack when the Premiership heads into a month-long hiatus after this weekend’s fixtures.
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“It is all about hanging in there and making sure that we remain in the mix,” said Booth. “We are only one win behind that group at the top, so we need to get ourselves in position for the next round of matches. That’s when it starts to get a bit more serious, so it’s important that we keep ourselves in touch.”
Bath recorded a 30-23 victory when the two sides met at The Rec in September, but Wasps look a much sterner prospect this time and enter the match on the back of three straight wins, including Saturday’s 34-15 success at London Welsh.
“They’ve certainly improved since we played before and are on a good run of results at the moment,” Booth added.
“That creates confidence, which in turn allows you to play better and with more freedom. It’s going to be a tough test for us because they played extremely well at the weekend. We’re going to have to be right on our mettle.
“Wasps play an expansive style of rugby, so we are going to have to be right on our game in both attack and defence because we know they have players with the ability to cause us problems.”
The Londoners have lost just one of their home fixtures this term, with the only defeat being at the hands of champions Harlequins on the opening day of the Premiership season in a match staged at Twickenham.
All eight fixtures at their regular Adams Park home have ended in Wasps victories, but Booth believes Saturday’s dramatic draw at Exeter shows Bath can break that streak.
Bath became the first Premiership team to avoid defeat at the Chiefs’ Sandy Park this term and the ex-London Irish boss says they are capable of a similar result this weekend.
“Wasps haven’t lost at Adams Park all season, so it’s another team with an unbeaten home record just like we had to face last week,” added Booth. “We did well in the same situation against Exeter, so, hopefully, we can produce another performance like that. The good news for us is that Nick Abendanon was injured last week, but is available for selection again.”
Another person who could return to the club in the coming weeks is Booth’s fellow first-team coach Brad Davis.
The former rugby league ace has been absent from Bath’s last three matches and was said by head coach Gary Gold to be “assessing his options” last month. Booth, however, believes Davis could soon be back at The Rec.
“As far as we understand things, he is coming back and it is just a question of when,” said Booth. “We have just carried on coaching and left the upper management to deal with that.”