Freddie Burns insists Bath have what it takes to claim the Premiership title despite the ongoing absence of star backs Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson.
Both England players have suffered setbacks in their recoveries from ankle and Achilles injuries, respectively.
However, Burns believes Bath’s attacking prowess is beginning to shine through under the guidance of backs coach Girvan Dempsey.
Burns told The Rugby Paper: “I definitely think we can challenge for the title. The way the Premiership table is, barring Saracens and Exeter everyone is beating everyone else and if you can string wins together, you can jump up pretty quickly.
“I’m optimistic we can make the top four and then with JJ, Anthony, Taulupe Faletau and other guys back for the run-in, we’ll have a fantastic squad. Even without them, on our day I think we’re capable of beating all the other teams in this league.”
Burns added: “We’re only just starting to show what we’re about, which is slightly frustrating, but there have been a fair few reasons behind that and injuries have meant it’s been difficult to keep combinations together for any time.
“Losing to Bristol in our first game of the season meant confidence took a knock and sometimes it can take a while to rebuild and get it where it needs to be.
“We’ve been up and down all year but we definitely feel that since the Leinster home game in the Champions Cup we’ve turned the corner – and Girvan Dempsey deserves a great deal of credit for that because he’s made a big impact.
“Attack is so much down to confidence to see plays, call them and execute and that’s where we’re getting to now. Getting players back from injury will help but we’re in a lot better place with Girvan at the helm than we were before.”
Meanwhile, Burns says Twitter trolls will never break him following the vile abuse he endured in the wake of his Champions Cup disaster against Toulouse.
Burns was left in tears after missing an easy kick and then having the ball knocked out of his hands by Maxime Medard as he prematurely celebrated what would have been a winning score – a double faux pas that cost Bath a 22-20 defeat.
“Social media abuse is an occupational hazard now,” admits Burns, 28. “You have your bad days and people chirp up, but there were lot more important things that happened in my personal life that overshadowed all of that.
“My mum’s best friend passed away at 38 from cancer. She had two young kids and my mum had helped care for her in the last two years of her life.
“She was a great woman, so when you get trolled on Twitter for dropping a ball over the line in rugby, you have to kind of just step back, be honest enough to say you made a mistake and then not take these things to heavily.”
Burns added: “That gave me a lot of perspective on the shenanigans that happened and it’s more important to be a positive person. If anything, 2018 was a year where I evolved and matured as a person through all that.
“The most disappointing thing about the Toulouse incident was it put us on the back foot in the Champions Cup and we’re out. It means we’ve only got the Premiership to go for, but we’re building a team to give it a good crack.”
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