Stuart Hooper: Bath captain sees progress within team

Bath captain Stuart Hooper says missing out on a trophy last season will inspire the team to improve this term.

The Rec outfit failed to reach the Premiership play-offs after losing to Harlequins on the final day of the regular season.

And they went on to lose to Northampton in the Amlin Challenge Cup final.

But 32-year-old Hooper, who will skipper the side for a fourth year, told BBC Radio Bristol: "We've now got the experience."

He continued: "We didn't get the silverware we wanted but when you look back on it with a more analytical view, rather than an emotional one, you can see that there was huge progress.

"We've now played knock-out rugby and we've got to a final. We've been in that situation where we've competed for trophies so it's a good mindset for the boys to be in."

Bath won six league titles and 10 cup competitions prior to rugby turning professional in 1995. However, they have not won any silverware since their Challenge Cup victory in 2008.

But finishing fifth in the Premiership standings in May secured Bath a place in the inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup, which replaces the Heineken Cup.

Bath's trophy cabinet

Heineken Cup: 1997-98

John Player Cup: 1983-84, 1984-85, 1985-86, 1986-87

European Challenge Cup: 2007-08

Pilkington Cup: 1988-89, 1989-90, 1991-92, 1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96

Courage League Division One: 1988-89, 1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-96

And Hooper, who is entering his seventh season with the club and has played 201 Premiership games, says leading the team back out in the top-level European competition will be a career highlight.

"It's massively exciting. I was eagerly anticipating the draw and it's fantastic to get back in that arena," said the Exeter-born lock, who has played 150 games for Bath.

"It's where we want to be and where the people of Bath want us to be.

"We paved the way for a lot of success over the years. With the new Champions Cup, we want to go out there and forge our own history.

"It's the inaugural year of the competition so it's a clean slate and everyone is looking to get their name on the trophy straight away."