THE BLOG

No Time for Mistletoe and Wine - Aviva Premiership Round 7

23/12/2015 16:29 GMT | Updated 23/12/2016 10:12 GMT

In professional sport nothing is ever guaranteed, more often than not matches and seasons do not follow the simplest of scripts, instead we get multiple twists and turns and from a spectator's point of view it is this unpredictability that is part of the fascination.

Already in the Aviva Premiership there have been a number of plots and subplots that none of us would have predicted at the start of the season. In only six domestic rounds we've seen individuals leave clubs, individuals expectedly or unexpectedly renew contracts, teams thrive and teams misfire and there's so much more to come!

Of all of the events that have occurred to date one that is a fair amount of scrutiny is the position that last year's runners up find themselves in.

For much of last season Bath Rugby showed other sides how it was done; they were the benchmark for attacking rugby and the men at the heart of it deservedly gained International recognition as a result. However now they are sitting in ninth and going into a home game against the Worcester Warriors with a spot of pressure on their shoulders.

Bath aren't the first extremely good side to fall into a 'difficult patch', and they won't be the last, however it does mean that this weekend's match is a significant one. As I've penned before, on many occasions, regaining confidence as professional sportsman/team is the ultimate challenge and one that is a true test of character.

At this moment in time Bath need their leaders to step up and carry the side forwards. There are members of Bath's squad that will have been in this position before, and their management will have experienced it as well, therefore the challenge will be to remain calm under intense pressure and ensure that on Sunday they fire the right shots.

Speaking with Mike Ford this week at Farleigh House he is astute enough to know exactly what their opponents will be thinking going into Round 7;

"They will smell blood and think it's a good time to play Bath, they will come firing. They are a side that compete, a side that I think are going to stay in the Premiership and a side that under Dean Ryan are hard-nosed. They're good at driving, can compete on the floor, on the ground and have a good defence. They're going to be licking their lips coming to the Rec because we have lost there three times already. We have got to beat their physicality, have the edge more than they do and want it more than they do. "

The Warriors chose to rest their starting XV during the Challenge Cup fortnight and therefore will be fresh and ready to go. Chris Pennell will be a driving force from full-back; Pennell sets the tone in attack and alongside Copper Vuna and Bryce Heem is part of a back three that makes opponents think. In their back-row Phil Dowson leads by example and is a workhorse of the highest order. He, alongside Donncha O'Callaghan, galvanises the team together and provides that backbone of top flight domestic experience that is vital to have in a side coming up from the Championship.

Last weekend Bat were totally dominated by Wasps in a way that we haven't seen happen for a long time at The Recreation Ground. Although mentally that will hurt, it should drive the squad forward and provide an ardent desired to right the wrongs as quickly as possible for their Director of Rugby said 'a loss hurts until you win again'.

The home side are very aware of the work that they need to put in both during the week and on Sunday to in order delver the result that their table position so desperately requires;

"It is important to remember that we are not just going to turn up and win. We've got to train well and we've got to have the right attitude and we've got to go and show it on the weekend because if not we'll get beaten."

This match may not have been marked on too many people's fixture cards at the start of the season however now it has great significance for both sides and will be one of the most intense of the weekend.

Elsewhere in the competition London Irish will be searching for their first domestic table points when they host Northampton Saints at the Madjeski Stadium. Not a million miles away from the Recreation Ground the Exeter Chiefs will be another side looking to bounce back form a difficult European weekend. Clermont Auvergne was not a happy hunting ground for Rob Baxter's men and they will welcome the Sale Sharks to Sandy Park. Finally the Leicester Tigers will be ready to host the Newcastle Falcons for their first Boxing Day fixture at Welford Road since 1998.

On Sunday Harlequins will host their annual Big Game at Twickenham Stadium and this year welcome Gloucester Rugby to town and in Coventry Wasps will meet the league leaders Saracens in what should be a pulsating end to the festive action.

Aviva Premiership Round 7

Sat 26th Dec - London Irish v Northampton Saints 2.30pm

Sat 26th Dec - Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks 3pm

Sat 26th Dec - Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons 3pm

Sun 27th Dec - Wasps v Saracens 2pm

Sun 27th Dec - Bath Rugby v Worcester Warriors 2.30pm

Sun 27th Dec - Harlequins v Gloucester Rugby 4.30pm