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BATH RUGBY: Ford seeking head start at Gloucester
MIKE Ford is determined that Bath’s mental focus will be razor-sharp for the challenge of Gloucester tomorrow (2.15pm) after being given an insight into what the west country derby means to players and supporters this week.
The 31-10 win over Sale last weekend got the club’s season back on track after two successive defeats, but the memory of the second of those losses – at previously-winless London Irish – still festers with the Recreation Ground men.
Common consent among the squad and coaching staff was that their attitude at the Madejski Stadium that day was not of the required standard, but defence guru Ford is confident a visit to Kings-holm will sharpen minds.
With a rugby league background, the fierce rivalry that exists between Bath and the Cherry & Whites is a new experience to the 46-year-old former England coach, but a few words of explanation from his players this week put him in the picture.
“I was talking to Lee Mears (hooker) and Nick Abendanon (full-back) about it and they were telling me how important this match is,’’ Ford told the Wiltshire Times.
“It’s not just another Premiership game. From my background in rugby league, I asked whether it was a similar rivalry to Wigan and St Helens.
“When the lads put it like that, I think I got a better understanding of what it’s like for the supporters.’’
Bath took themselves off to Cardiff this week to run through training drills against opponents they had not previously analysed and Ford believes that freshening-up exercise could reap benefits in tomorrow’s derby.
“It was a different venue and we (the coaches) got to know the players a bit better in a different environment,’’ he added.
“We had not analysed their (Cardiff’s) defence and it gave us a chance to practice against somebody else other than the non-starters in our squad.
“We know it’s an important game this weekend and hopefully it will have freshened a few minds.’’
He added: “The major outcome (from the Sale match) win or lose was that we had to get back an edge, both mentally and physically.
“Rugby is a chaotic game but the bottom line is that you always have to be up for the game.
“At London Irish we weren’t, but hopefully we started to put that right against Sale. Players make mistakes during games but to not be there attitude-wise is not acceptable.’’
Olly Barkley’s departure to Racing Métro after last weekend’s victory means World Cup winner Stephen Donald is likely to step in for his first start to the season.
Sam Vesty and Ollie Devoto are also options, while young fly-half Tom Heathcote is probably a week away from a return after injury.