RUGBY: ‘Privileged’ Hooper feels right at home

Stuart Hooper

Stuart Hooper

First published in Sport by

CLUB skipper Stuart Hooper says the pre-match buzz that puts butterflies in his stomach is getting stronger with each passing game.

The lock signed a one-year extension to his contract this week, committing his future at the Rec until at least the end of next season.

Hooper, who has been with Bath since 2008 and is in his third season as captain, feels that he still has plenty to give to the blue, black and white shirt and considers leading the side a personal honour. “It was a pretty easy decision for me and I’m just chuffed to bits to be staying here and to carry on working with this group of people,” said Hooper.

“I’m into my third year now and I love captaining the club. I’m passionate about the club, the people involved and the city, so I’d love to do it for as long as possible.

“I’ve got a wife and three kids and they love it here. They love the club and you see the kids charging around the pitch after games. It’s very special to us.

“I think that what’s important for me is that I’d never want to be trying to play when my body wasn’t able to – I don’t like to do things by half-measures.

“I’m 32 and it’ll be my 15th year as a professional, so If I’m going to play for a club then I want to make sure I can give it 100 per cent.

“I absolutely feel I can do that for Bath, at least for another year, and we’ll see where we go after that.

“I know what I’ve been through since I started because that’s what makes you the player you are. I’ve played in a lot of games in the Premiership and a lot around Europe, and experience is invaluable but I haven’t sat down and reflected yet. I’ll save that for a few years’ time.

“As the days go by, I can’t wait for the weekends to come around. We finish training on the Tuesday, you have the Wednesday off and then you spend Thursday and Friday building up to games – it’s so exciting.

“You do a huddle out there after training on a Thursday, look around at the faces of people on your team, and just feel ‘this is an absolute privilege’.

“I think when you get to the end of your career, you treasure that even more – I certainly do – because it’s a finite number. You can’t go on forever.

“I just treasure the fact that I’ve got the honour of leading these boys out on a Saturday afternoon.”

Hooper is also looking forward to the challenge of attempting to rack up a third victory of the season over Exeter Chiefs when Bath travel to Devon this weekend.

He said: “They’re one of the toughest teams we play against and I’ve got a great deal of respect for Exeter. They play a great brand of very attacking rugby and are difficult to defend against.

“They play in front of a very passionate crowd and Sandy Park is an awesome play to go.

“It’s noisy and everyone is there to have a good time with the tomahawk chop, fancy dress and what have you.

“Because we’re close, we always bring a decent-sized crowd and I think that everyone enjoys their day there.”

NEWS FROM BATH'S AVIVA PREMIERSHIP CLASH AT EXETER TOMORROW AT WILTSHIRETIMES.CO.UK/SPORT

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