Joseph: Bath ready for showdown

Published: Friday 29th May 2015 by The News Editor

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Jonathan Joseph believes that Bath are ready and equipped to handle the high-octane environment awaiting them in Saturday’s Aviva Premiership final against Saracens.

England and Bath centre Joseph was just four-years-old when the west country club last left a showpiece Twickenham occasion as winners in 1996.

Then, it was the English domestic knockout cup final, when a controversial late penalty try edged Bath home 16-15 against Leicester and Tigers flanker Neil Back subsequently received a six-month ban for pushing referee Steve Lander as the final whistle was blown.

Bath, regular league and cup winners during a golden era in the 1980s and 1990s that also included them becoming England’s first European champion club, have never threatened to reattain such heights since then. Until now.

They will arrive in south-west London with a turbo-charged back division that has blown away teams like Toulouse, Leicester and Montpellier this term.

Saracens, though, are good enough to put a spanner in the works, having established themselves as consistent challengers for domestic and European silverware during Mark McCall’s impressive reign as rugby director.

“It’s a challenge, isn’t it?” Joseph said.

“Saracens are a great side defensively, and in attack they bring a lot of firepower. For us, it’s about making good decisions on the day, and if they present us with an attacking opportunity then we are ultimately going to try and take that.

“Many of the players have played in big games before, so we are all prepared, we are all ready and it’s about dragging your team-mate along.

“We are a team, we are in it together and we will do what we can to help the boys that might not be as experienced and experienced Twickenham as much as others. We are a unit, we’re tight and we will go out there together and play as a team.

“There is massive belief in the squad. We want to be playing on the big stage, we want to be winning trophies and playing in the Premiership final.

“So for us, it has been a great season so far, but it doesn’t really make sense if we come away from Twickenham empty-handed.

“We were in a final (European Challenge Cup) last year and didn’t quite make it, but this season the amount of effort the boys have put in we really want to go out there and get that trophy.

“For us, if we get what we think right – our attacking system, our shape, our decision-making – we feel we can put teams under a lot of stress.”

With England’s World Cup campaign less than four months away, a number of mouthwatering individual battles are on the menu, including George Ford against Owen Farrell at fly-half, centres Kyle Eastmond and Brad Barritt going head to head, plus an intriguing blindside flanker contest between Bath’s high-profile rugby league recruit Sam Burgess and Saracens’ brilliant young prospect Maro Itoje.

While Bath have waited 11 years to contest a Premiership final since losing 10-6 to Wasps, Saracens hold a Twickenham season ticket in comparison.

They won the title in 2011, and Saracens also have the memory of last season’s agonising extra-time defeat against Northampton when Saints prop Alex Waller scored a winning try with just seconds remaining, to spur them on.

“This is now our fourth Premiership final in six seasons,” McCall said. “It would be nice to win another one.

“You get nothing for how many times you’ve been in a final, or for what happened last year.

“It is all about how you perform on the day. If we can nail that, then we won’t be far away.”

Published: Friday 29th May 2015 by The News Editor

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