Lewis Moody believes Bath have everything going for them in their push for a first Premiership semi-final in five years, ahead of facing west country rivals Gloucester.
This evening’s clash at the Rec will see Stuart Hooper’s side seek to claim a seventh win in eight matches since the Premiership’s resumption.
To do so against Gloucester would take Bath a step closer towards securing a first Premiership semi-final in five years.
For the neutral spectator, former Bath flanker Moody is expecting an encounter worth watching.
“When you look at both sides they both play such exciting brands of rugby,” Moody told The Rugby Paper. “It’s difficult to say whether it will be down to pack dominance of backline dominance.
“Bath have certainly looked the most consistent since returning from lockdown. The number of wins they have had against good opposition that they’ve had – they had one loss against Wasp but that was a close encounter – has been better than Gloucester who just have those wins over London Irish and Leicester. Without being disrespectful to my old club Leicester you could say that they are not flying high at the moment.
“Bath should be going into this game as favourites but that probably plays into Gloucester’s hands, you know what these derby games are like.
“Hopefully the weather holds up as it is currently with the sun shining because these two backlines have got real talent. Look at Gloucester with Thorley, May and Twelvetrees with his experience and then Bath have got Cokanasiga back on the bench, Anthony Watson coming back in. We have two exciting teams to watch play rugby, let’s just hope they don’t bludgeon themselves into submission.”
Bath welcome back England duo Anthony Watson and Joe Cokanasiga for the match, with the latter returning from a serious knee injury sustained prior to the World Cup last autumn.
Marking young flanker Miles Reid as one with a bright future ahead of him, Moody sees Matt Garvey as a player who will want to prove a point for Gloucester against the club that released him in July.
“Maybe I’m heavily leaning towards Bath,” the former England captain added. “If you look at Gloucester they have Matt Banahan and Matt Garvey.
“Garvey has just left Bath and will be wanting to prove a point and ‘Bannas’ has had a good few games against them now after leaving a couple of years ago.
“Bath, for me though, are definitely looking the stronger team. On current form, crucial at this part of the season where you’re building towards the play-offs, Bath’s consistency is going in the right direction and their confidence is going in the right direction.
“Yes, Exeter, Wasps and Sale are also looking sharp at the moment but I am liking what I am seeing from Bath.
The corresponding fixture in January saw Gloucester take the spoils 29-15 at Kingsholm, with tries for Jason Woodward, Freddie Clark, Gerbrandt Grobler and Ruan Ackermann.
But lockdown has afforded time for director of rugby Hooper to make a sudden and exact impact.
“Stuart has been there and learnt a lot over the past five or six years in various coaching roles, he has covered a lot of positions working his way through from coaching to elite performance, to director of rugby,” Moody said.
“He has gained a lot of experience and I just think now he has the squad that he wanted. The lockdown period and the challenges with the salary cap has allowed him to get in early and get the players that he wanted, and move on those that he didn’t think were the right fit for the club. I think there have been changes in the backroom staff as well.
“Neal Hatley has taken what looks like full control of the coaching and Stuart is able to take a step back.
“He has created an environment where everybody is pulling towards a common goal. And not a great deal has changed, there has just been a bit of tinkering behind the scenes and now Bath look almost unbeatable.”
BT Sport is the home of Gallagher Premiership Rugby. Watch Bath v Gloucester on Tuesday 22nd September from 5.15pm on BT Sport 1