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RUGBY: We've focussed on ourselves, says Ben
10:56am Thursday 24th January 2013 in Sport
AN IMPRESSIVE 53-8 victory over Bucharest Wolves in their last outing suggests Bath Rugby have fine-tuned their game preparations to perfection, but centre Ben Williams insists turning the focus in on themselves is what has made the squad so deadly in Europe, writes RIC SUMNER.
The Amlin Challenge Cup victory was Bath's sixth out of six in the competition, sending the West Country outfit through as top seeds and setting up a quarter-final at home to Stade Francais.
Victory over Exeter Chiefs on Saturday would see Bath move a step closer to qualification for the knockout stages of a second competition, the LV=Cup, and Williams believes the new emphasis brought in under head coach Gary Gold is partly responsible for their cup success.
"This year training has been a lot more intense than probably what a lot of the guys will have been used to," said the 23-year-old, who joined Bath from school in 2007.
"The coaches who have come in have put a lot of emphasis on individual skills and analysis and you get a lot of time from them. The coaches are all world class and a big influence on us as individual players to improve.
"Of course analysis is a big part of our preparation, but over the past few weeks we've put a lot of focus on ourselves and putting our game right.
"We haven't spent too much time working on what the opposition are doing because we know when we get it right not a lot of teams can live with us."
Whatever they are doing Williams is certainly one of the beneficiaries, with the former England youth international racking up a string of appearances in Europe and the Aviva Premiership, including Amlin Cup victories over Agen and Bucharest in the past fortnight - and scoring in the 23-15 league win over Exeter at the Rec in October.
"It was a good win over Bucharest as the week before we had a tough test against a big Agen side and we are just trying to carry that momentum forward and get the basics right, and I think we are doing that," said the 16st 3lb academy product.
"I've played for the last couple of weeks in a row now, and I've actually played quite a bit this season so it's nice to get the game time. But I don't like to get too far ahead of myself and I'm just working hard every day in training and I'm pretty happy with my form.
"I know what my strengths are like my ball carrying, but I'm working hard on other parts of my game like my kicking - which I'm working on with Dave Alred - and improving my contact skills."
If Williams represents the new blood desperate to break into the first XV, Peter Stringer definitely provides the experience with the scrum-half capped 98 times by Ireland signing on with Bath as short-term injury cover.
And Williams is convinced that mix of youthful vigour and old heads is balanced perfectly for Bath to meet the challenge of Exeter and the season to come, adding: "Peter trained with us for the first time today and while he's obviously vastly experienced, he's also genuinely a really nice bloke as well.
"I'm looking forward to working with him and getting to know him and the experience he has got will obviously be of value to us as a group, particularly the younger boys.
"I think we already have a vast amount of experience in the squad with guys like Stuart Hooper, Rob Webber coming back, guys who have played a lot of Premiership games then there's Francois Louw and Lee Mears who have that international experience so we probably have a good mix with a lot of good guys coming through and putting their hands up."
The LV= Cup. Watch the next generation break through. For tickets and info, visit www.lv.com/rugby
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