TOBY Booth insists Bath are heading towards the crucial final weekends of the season free from pressure as they close in on a place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs.
Victory over Northampton – also their opponents in the Amlin Challenge Cup final in Cardiff later this month – at the Rec tonight (7.45pm) would wrap up a place in the top four ahead of a trip to Harlequins – who themselves still harbour play-off hopes – next weekend.
Toppling the Saints would not only strike a psychological blow ahead of the sides’ European meeting on May 23, but also offer a reminder to Bath’s top-four rivals that they are still a force to be reckoned with heading into the knockout stages.
Booth believes his side are still plugging away ‘under the radar’ as the focus falls on the likes of perennial play-off contenders Saracens, Saints and Leicester, but added: “The difference this year is that we are built on better basics and we’ve got better players so that automatically gives you a fighting chance.
“Then it comes down to dealing with pressure, dealing with the occasion and dealing with the expectation.Our job as coaches is to take the pressure off because there is no pressure.
“Probably an indication of that, disappointing as it is for us is that if you look at those players nominated for player of the year (George Ford and Anthony Watson have been nominated for the breakthrough player award), we’re the only team in the top six that haven’t got a player in it. So no one is really talking about us.
“We’ve exceeded where we put in our heads where we should be.’’
Bath have dealt with a quick turnaround from Sunday’s 24-18 Amlin semi final victory at Wasps, although flanker Matt Garvey could face a lengthy lay-off after rolling his ankle at Adams Park.
Winger Semesa Rokoduguni is playing for the Army against the Navy at Twickenham on Saturday, but lock Dave Attwood should return after missing the Wasps game with a facial injury.
Booth added: “We’ve spoken about resilience and overcoming challenges and if we have to do it a little bit the hard way that’s the way it is.
“It’s about having a big enough squad to maintain the levels of enthusiasm and energy at this time of year.
“Whether it’s a five-day turnaround or an eight-day turnaround it’s not different. It’s about mentality and physical capability.’’
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