SECOND row Stuart Hooper has been named Bath's club captain for the fourth consecutive year - an appointment head coach Mike Ford has described as "a no-brainer.''
Hooper, 32, has made 150 appearances for Bath to date and reached the Premiership milestone of 200 appearances last season, the 6ft 5 in lock having joined the club from Leeds Carnegie in 2008.
Hooper said: “It’s an honour to be named as captain for another season, and I’m very proud to be given the chance to continue leading Bath as we keep improving in the upcoming season.
"We have a very exciting squad, and we know we have the potential to progress even more. We know what we have to do next season, and all the hard work ahead of us, but we can’t wait to get started.”
Bath head coach Mike Ford said: “I’ve worked with some great captains throughout my career, but Stuart really is the finest I’ve had the pleasure of working with.
“Stuart embodies everything you look for in a captain, and everything we expect from our players here at Bath.
"His leadership is second to none, he’s a skilful, intelligent player on the pitch, and just as importantly he’s a wonderful example off the field to the rest of the squad.
"He also has the respect of everyone at the club. His work ethic and dedication to improving week on week is exactly what we, as a group of coaches and players, need as we continue the development of the club.”
Ford has frequently referred to the strong core of leaders throughout the Bath squad, including South African back row Francois Louw, lock Dave Attwood, fly-half George Ford and hooker Rob Webber among other, with Hooper as the fulcrum.
He told the Wiltshire Times: "It was a bit of a shock when we had to make a decision because we didn't even need to discuss it really. But it takes away any speculation and any doubt and puts it to bed.
"Stuart probably had his best season for Bath last season. He understands that he will have to play well to get the shirt first and foremost. He'll always be club captain and if he gets the shirt he's team captain.
"We have a group of players who are leaders. The decision-making on the field is ultimately Stuart's but he will quite often look towards others who are running the game. Stuart trusts them.
"We're on the same page. He understands what we are trying to achieve and he wants to drive the whole organisation.''
READ MORE FROM HOOPER AND FORD IN THIS WEEK'S WILTSHIRE TIMES, OUT ON FRIDAY