HEAD coach Mike Ford reckons that his Bath squad are thriving off a healthy competition for places.

The Rec outfit have rung the changes for this week’s Amlin Challenge Cup clashes against Newport Gwent Dragons and Bordeaux Bègles and Ford is keen to have as many top-class options at his disposal as he can.

International call-ups will take their toll on Ford’s side during next month’s Six Nations but Ford is hoping that he’ll have a raft of willing replacements ready to maintain his side’s impressive campaign so far.

“It’s good to have strength in depth and there are four very important Premiership games during the Six Nations, so we need everyone to be as up to speed as they can be,” said Ford.

“I’m not saying we’re going to rotate every week but we need to figure out in training how we can get everyone ready to play.

“It’s always good to keep layering the belief in the players, belief in the organisation and belief in us coaches that we have got that strength in depth.

“We want to keep all the players hungry – we don’t want to say ‘this is the first XV and you guys have got no chance of playing’. We want to create competition for places and we want to be able to pick the best team for any one occasion.

“And in training, we’re massive on how you train – if you don’t train well, you could get dropped.

“We’ve always said that all you can be as a player, is be ready to play.

“There might be an illness or an injury and you get thrown in, so the mantra is that you’ve got to be ready.”

Fly-half Tom Heathcote has been playing second fiddle to star man George Ford so far this campaign but the 21-year-old got a much-needed taste of competitive action in last weekend’s 30-13 victory at Newport.

Boss Ford said: “He did very well. He’s been excellent this year in terms of his attitude.

“He’s wanting to get better all the time and I’ve had a couple of chats with him this year.

“He understands that George is playing well but he’s getting the attention that he’s craving in terms of his development from Toby (Booth), Neal (Hatley) and myself and he knows that he’s going to get his chance.

“At the same time, we’ve got to be fair to him – we know that it was his first game in a while at the weekend and we know it takes you three or four games to get to your top form.”