RUGBY: Hooper backing United to finish the job

Wiltshire Times: Bath club captain Stuart Hooper Bath club captain Stuart Hooper

AFTER watching Bath United cruise past Sale Jets and into Monday night’s Aviva A League final, Stuart Hooper knows the club’s future is in good hands.

Hooper, Bath Rugby’s club captain, was part of a sell-out crowd at The Rec to witness a dominant display, which saw the hosts run in five tries.

Bath United have achieved instant success this season, under the tutelage of former London Irish academy coach Neal Hatley.

And as they head to Franklin’s Gardens to take on Northampton Wanderers, the 32-year-old is backing the impressive unit to lift the trophy.

“It is brilliant,” said Hooper. “It is one of those where you sit back and you think ‘these guys are definitely the future of the club’.

“It is a really important part of the club and the way the guys have stepped up and played in that has been absolutely fantastic.

“It has been credit to the guys for the way they have approached the competition.

“It is the application they have had for training, the amount of players they have had for it and the professional development they guys have had in that squad.

“It is not a thrown-together squad – there has been a real effort throughout the year to build and develop it.

“When I started there wasn’t such a structured A-team league so I haven’t played that many A-team games. Squads are much bigger now so we need that structure of the league.”

A team of academy prospects, augmented by first-team stars like Kyle Eastmond and Tom Biggs, blew away Sale Jets in the first half at The Rec.

And Hooper was impressed with a host of the club’s youngsters, tipping one or two to keep an eye on in Monday’s final.

“The club hosted it brilliantly well – there were 6000 people packed in at The Rec,” he added.

“It was really, really loud and I think the fact that it was on a Monday night and it was free tickets meant we got a lot of different people through the gates.

“There are lots of guys who are really putting their hands up. Charlie Ewels has been playing for England Under-18s, which is really good for him. There are probably too many to mention.

“Max Clark is another exciting teenager, and Tom Ellis. These are guys who have got good experience playing representative rugby as well.”

The Aviva A League Final between Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby is on Monday 16 December at Franklin's Gardens at 7.30pm. Tickets still available via northamptonsaints.co.uk/buytickets - £5 adults, £2 juniors, free for Saints Season Ticket Holders and Saints Nation Members.

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