Every point will be vi­tal – Black­ad­der We need to make sure we are con­sis­tent this time, in­sists Bath direc­tor of rugby

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Sport - DANIEL EVANS daniel.evans@reach­plc.com

TODD Black­ad­der of­ten talks about try­ing to learn lessons and be bet­ter, whether that is as a direc­tor of rugby or for his squad of play­ers.

As Bath Rugby pre­pare for their 2018/19 Heineken Cham­pi­ons Cup cam­paign, they do so hav­ing been taught a costly one last sea­son.

This time last year they were pre­par­ing to host Benet­ton Rugby at the Rec. The Ital­ian club were fore­cast to be the whip­ping boys of a pool also con­tain­ing Toulon and Scar­lets, but proved a tough nut to crack for all of their op­po­nents.

But while Toulon and Scar­lets found a way to get four tries against them at home, Bath only mus­tered a 23-0 win af­ter 80 min­utes, and were put un­der se­ri­ous pres­sure.

Black­ad­der, pic­tured, said: “We had quite a few in­juries and we won the match, but we didn’t get the bonus point and by the end of the pool that was the dif­fer­ence in us not qual­i­fy­ing for the quar­ter-fi­nals.

“You have to take every point on of­fer in this com­pe­ti­tion. We need to make sure we’re con­sis­tent this time.

“Our tar­get is to win all our home matches and pick up points on the road. We want to go one bet­ter than last year and progress from what is an­other tough pool. I’m con­fi­dent we can do well.”

In the end, it was Scar­lets who qual­i­fied as pool win­ners last time, with Toulon one of the three best run­ners-up who qual­i­fied for the knock­out stages.

This time, Le­in­ster, Toulouse and Wasps are Bath’s Pool One op­po­nents, start­ing with the French four­time cham­pi­ons at the Rec to­day.

Nat­u­rally, Bath would like to go all

the way, but they are way down the bet­ting. Given Bath have of­ten been guilty of hav­ing Groundhog Day per­for­mances over the past cou­ple of sea­sons, their abil­ity to right wrongs should be ques­tioned.

But Black­ad­der is con­fi­dent they can erad­i­cate some of the frail­ties that were pun­ished in the 50-27 de­feat at Sara­cens and 39-24 loss at home to Exeter Chiefs in their last two matches.

“Hav­ing just played the best two teams in the Pre­mier­ship it has ex­posed some of our weak­nesses and shown us what we’re do­ing well and what we’re not do­ing well,” Black­ad­der said. “We missed quite a few op­por­tu­ni­ties in the 22m against Chiefs and, although de­fen­sively we stopped them play­ing at times, it was those lit­tle de­ci­sion-mak­ing er­rors which re­ally hurt us.”

If the last time Toulouse came to the Rec – they won 21-19 four years ago – is any­thing to go by then this af­ter­noon could be an­other fine Euro­pean bat­tle.

“It should be an­other fan­tas­tic oc­ca­sion at the Rec,” Black­ad­der said. “Hope­fully, the sup­port­ers will be in fine voice and bring us lots of en­ergy.”

Jamie Roberts will make a sur­prise come­back for Bath against Toulouse.

The 94-cap Wales in­ter­na­tional has taken only four weeks to re­cover from a frac­tured cheek­bone and will start at in­side cen­tre.

Francois Louw – who played for South Africa against New Zealand in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship last week­end – and fit-again Luke Char­teris are back in the pack.

The front row and Dave Attwood re­main un­changed from the de­feat to Chiefs last time out, with Tom El­lis switch­ing to the blind­side flank and Zach Mercer to num­ber eight in the ab­sence of Taulupe Fale­tau, who has a bro­ken right arm .

Chris Cook comes in at scrum-half in place of Max Green, with Rhys Pri­est­land once again lead­ing the team from fly-half.

Jack­son Wil­li­son and Semesa Roko­duguni have re­tained their places in the back­line, with Fred­die Burns get­ting an­other shot at full­back. Darren Atkins comes in for Joe Cokanasiga, who has pre­sum­ably picked up a knock in train­ing.

Sam Un­der­hill and Tom Homer are back in the match­day 23 and among the re­place­ments.

Two All Black World Cup win­ners will be in the Toulouse pack. Jerome Kaino will start at num­ber eight and Char­lie Fau­muina at tight­head for the French Top14 club.

The vis­i­tors have some dan­ger men be­hind the scrum too, in the form of rapid Spring­boks winger Ch­es­lin Kolbe and French in­ter­na­tion­als Maxime Medard and Maxime Mer­moz. Francois Cros leads Toulouse from the blind­side flank.

Bath Rugby: F Burns, S Roko­duguni, J Wil­li­son, J Roberts, D Atkins; R Pri­est­land (capt), C Cook; N Catt, T Dunn, H Thomas, D Attwood, L Char­teris, T El­lis, F Louw, Z Mercer. Re­place­ments: J Walker, J van Rooyen, A Perenise, E Stooke, S Un­der­hill, M Green, M Wright, T Homer.

■ Steve Ojo­moh has taken a big step for­ward in his re­cov­ery from a stroke.

The for­mer Bath Rugby flanker is no longer in in­ten­sive care and has been moved to the neu­rol­ogy unit at South­mead Hospi­tal, Bris­tol.

The 48-year-old, who coaches Trow­bridge RFC, was taken ill at the be­gin­ning of the month.

Wife Lisa re­vealed: “Very happy to re­port Oj is now off ICU.”

Henry Browne/ Getty Images

Jamie Roberts is back for Bath Rugby

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