HE may have had a typically forthright assessment of Bath’s 32-9 Aviva Premiership defeat at Sale last Saturday, but director of rugby Todd Blackadder still believes his squad are on the road to ‘something special’ as they welcome Wasps to the Rec tonight (7.45pm).

Three Rhys Priestland penalties helped Bath into a 9-6 half-time lead in Manchester, only for Josh Strauss, Byron McGuigan, James O’Connor and Will Cliff to touch down for the Sharks after the break as the visitors struggled.

“We were crap,’’ was Blackadder’s blunt summary of his side’s display in the north west, but they remain on the fringes of the top four and with the Champions Cup campaign also going well, the Rec chief is more content with their overall progress this term.

“I’m really pleased and I think we’re in a really good position,’’ he added.

“It feels like we’re building and getting better and I think we are, but we’re nowhere near the finished product by any means.

“But it really feels like we’re building towards something special, which is good, and the hard work is going in.’’

Sale was another example of Bath’s recent struggles over the Christmas period, an issue Blackadder admits he has been attempting to address.

“I think this period is really critical for us,’’ he added. “I think we’ve won one game over the festive period for the last three years so it’s often been a phase where we have lost our momentum.

“So I think the next three weeks will be key to whether we are successful or not.

“It’s one of those ones where it’s hard to put your finger on, but perhaps we haven’t had a tight enough culture or a good enough focus on the job in hand, or we’ve got a little carried away at this time of year.

“I’m not really sure but the thing for us is that we’ve had a massive refocus on what this period means for us and the bigger picture so if we can get those things right, we need to be firing every week.

“We’ve just acknowledged that it’s been an area of weakness for us but it’s also an opportunity to do something quite significant.’’

Luke Charteris, Tom Dunn, Jonathan Joseph and Beno Obano all return to the starting line-up for the clash.

Charteris, Dunn and Obano all take their places in the pack, whilst Joseph lines up at outside centre against last year’s Aviva Premiership finalists.

Dunn and Obano are the two changes in the front row, with Henry Thomas continuing at tighthead prop.

Charteris will link-up with Charlie Ewels in the second row, with Zach Mercer at number eight. The 20-year-old will be joined in the back row by captain Matt Garvey and Paul Grant, who switches to openside flanker.

Rhys Priestland returns to fly-half, and will be joined by Kahn Fotuali’i in the half-back combination.

In the midfield, there is a start for James Wilson at inside centre, with Joseph providing the support outside the New Zealander.

The back three is unchanged from last weekend’s game against Sale Sharks, with Anthony Watson at full-back and Aled Brew and Jack Wilson occupying the wing positions.

Bath: 15. Anthony Watson, 14. Jack Wilson, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 12. James Wilson, 11. Aled Brew, 10. Rhys Priestland, 9. Kahn Fotuali’i, 1. Beno Obano, 2. Tom Dunn, 3. Henry Thomas, 4. Charlie Ewels, 5. Luke Charteris, 6. Matt Garvey (captain), 7. Paul Grant, 8. Zach Mercer.

Replacements: 16. Michael van Vuuren, 17. Lucas Noguera, 18. Max Lahiff, 19. Elliott Stooke, 20. James Phillips, 21. Chris Cook, 22. Freddie Burns, 23. Darren Atkins.