Confidence is one of the most difficult things to find in professional sport. When you have it, it propels you to greatness that you didn't think was possible however when you lose it, it is the most difficult thing to find in the world - the smallest needle in the largest of haystacks.
When you read Bath Rugby's squad it is one that is filled with all the ingredients to excel; their backs are effervescent ball players and their forwards powerful units. However after six Premiership rounds they find themselves sitting ninth in the domestic table. In the 2014-15 season Bath lost just six games, already they've recorded four defeats this term and the question on everyone's lips is what has happened? And, perhaps more importantly what needs to be done?
Well from my position drastic action is not required, far from it, instead one complete performance will spark this talented side into life. The performance must needs to marry precision and accuracy in their backline with parity or dominance at the forwards and set piece. I believe that will, very quickly, turn their domestic season on its head.
The Rugby World Cup robbed Bath Rugby of the opportunity to press on from their Aviva Premiership Final loss. Whether they say it publicly or not its presence will have frustrated Bath's management and made them think what if? What could they have done with a normal full pre-season together complete with all of their key personnel? A pre-season that was built on the confidence of getting so close to the main domestic prize and a pre-season adding further details and layers to theagame plan that was firing on all four cylinders and impressing us all. Instead a number of their players found their confidence dented as part of England's World Cup fall out. Then when all returned to Farleigh House Sam Burgess betrayed the entire squad's confidence by upping sticks and leaving them when they expected him to knuckle down and give his all to the team.
Much is talked about the Bath game plan, the one that focuses on attacking from all areas of the field and one that nine times out of ten will choose to run the ball. After the opening six rounds there will be some that argue that it isn't working however it is not their game plan that is falling short, it is their execution. Last season Bath's precision was flawless, they delivered everything with pinpoint accuracy and almost every entrance to the opposition's 22 resulted in a score. However since match one against Exeter passes have gone astray, their handling has been off and these errors have been costly.
So what now? Well the fixture list doesn't let up; five of their next seven games are Champions Cup fixtures with two against Wasps, two against Toulon and one against Leinster. In the middle Mike Ford's side have two domestic outings to contend with meeting Worcester Warriors just after Christmas and facing the Newcastle Falcons in the New Year.
Personnel wise Jonathan Joseph's return back is vital, as talented as Ollie Devoto is, JJ's influence cannot be rivalled. England missed him in the World Cup and Bath have done so too. David Denton needs to get into his groove pretty quickly and at scrum half Niko Matawalu must improve his basics sharpish. The Fijian has shown that he can be a game changer however at this moment he is more of a liability and if that continues he won't last long in Mike Ford's squad.
This coming week will test the squad's character, they have to put their domestic disappointment aside and arrive at the Ricoh Arena with a spot of swagger. Potentially they'll be channeling the phrase 'fake it till you make it' however it is essential that they do so. Bath Rugby haven't become a bad side overnight they are just underperforming by a country mile.Suggest a correction