New Bath Rugby director of rugby Stuart Hooper is looking for the English club to qualify for the knockout rounds of the European Cup for the first time since 2014/15, after being drawn in Pool 3 of the Heineken Champions Cup next season.
The 1998 winners have come third in their pool the last three campaigns they have competed in Europe’s elite club rugby competition, but Todd Blackadder’s successor is seeking an improvement in 2019/20, following their pairing with Ulster Rugby, Harlequins and ASM Clermont Auvergne.
“For us, it’s absolutely about going out into the games with the determination to get out of the group and progress through the competition and into the excitement of the knockout stages,” Hooper, who played 41 European games for Bath, told the club website.
“We have flirted with it in the last couple of years in different ways, but we haven’t quite managed to make that step and get out of the pool. We’re going to go out there and attack it, and enjoy the opportunity to play in the competition.
Which team are you most excited about facing? pic.twitter.com/9XwhqSmDub
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) June 19, 2019
“It is important for us to focus on the fact that we finished in the [Premiership] top six and that we have been given this opportunity. It’s now about showing up every week and every time we go out in the competition to put our best game out there.
“We have seen how close we have been in recent years in getting out of the pool and if we can be consistent in this competition, then we have a good shout.”
While they are regular opponents of Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership, you have to go back to 2010/11 for Bath’s last match against Ulster and 2007 for their most recent meeting with Clermont, which was the Challenge Cup final won 22-16 by the French club at Twickenham Stoop.
Expect plenty of tries in Pool 3 with the talent out wide…💫
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) June 23, 2019
Hooper added: “There is a real edge around playing quality opposition from all over Europe and to see the familiar face of Harlequins, who we play year-in year-out in the Premiership, and then to have two new faces in Ulster and Clermont, who are two relatively new trips for us as a group and for the supporters who have not been there for a long time.
“It’s great to be able to really challenge our game against the likes of Clermont, who are a tremendously well-rounded rugby team and have a good balance between the dominance of their forwards combined with the flair of their backs.
“Ulster play a fantastic brand of rugby over in Northern Ireland and it is a really exciting prospect of pitching our game against theirs. Hopefully, the occasion and the level of that will be huge.”