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Bath: BTSport.com's Gallagher Premiership 2019/20 season preview

Stuart Hooper's reign gets underway live on BT Sport and to get you ready for the Bristol showdown, we preview Bath's impending Premiership campaign.

Last season's Gallagher Premiership finish: 6th (W10 D2 L10 - Pts 56)

This season's target: Top-four finish

Last season's top try scorer: Joe Cokanasiga (8)

Odds to win the Premiership: 33/1 (odds correct at the time of writing)

First four fixtures: Bristol (A) Exeter (H), Wasps (A), Northampton (A)

Transfers in: Lewis Boyce (Harlequins), Christian Judge (Cornish Pirates), Will Stuart (Wasps), Mike Williams (Leicester Tigers), Josh McNally (London Irish), Ollie Fox (Yorkshire Carnegie)

Transfers out: Dave Attwood (Bristol Bears), Paul Grant (Ealing Trailfinders), Victor Delmas (Biarritz), Kahn Fotuali'i (Montpellier), Max Lahiff (released), Anthony Perenise (released), Jacques van Rooyen (NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes), Michael van Vuuren (released), Cooper Vuna (Newcastle Falcons), Jack Wilson (Hong Kong FC), James Wilson (Mitsubishi DynaBoars), Luke Charteris (retired)

Never want to miss an Bath game? You can watch live matches all season long in the Gallagher Premiership, Premiership Rugby Cup and Heineken Champions Cup on BT Sport. If you’re not yet a subscriber, find out how we can get you signed up in just 15 minutes.

Read on for BTSport.com's in-depth Bath season preview, or check out more from our exclusive series:

Bristol Bears | Exeter ChiefsGloucester | Harlequins | Leicester Tigers | London Irish | Northampton Saints | Saracens | Sale Sharks | Wasps | Worcester Warriors

Join now to watch Gallagher Premiership Rugby all season long on BT Sport

The story of last season

Last year was a true rollercoaster season for the Bath faithful, with injuries blighting their campaign. 

Star men like Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph and Semesa Rokoduguni all had their seasons disrupted by long-term injuries.

Lesser-known names like Zach Mercer, Dave Attwood and Ruaridh McConnochie stepped up to fill the void but the West Countrymen fell short of reaching the play-offs. 

But Bath did find consolation in qualifying for next season's Champions Cup after narrowly beating Leicester in the 22nd and final round to sneak into sixth position. 

Questions will inevitably be asked whether director of rugby Todd Blackadder's decision to announce his departure midway through the campaign affected his side's focus.

Blackadder signed a contract extension at The Rec until the end of next season, but the 47-year-old was granted an early release to join Japanese side Toshiba. 

Former club captain Stuart Hooper, who has long been groomed for the role, has taken over.

He will be assisted by Neal Hatley, who will assume responsibility for coaching the forwards and the defence following England's World Cup campaign this Autumn.

Ex-Ireland full-back Girvan Dempsey will stay in his role of attack and backs coach.

Hopes for this season

Bath fans will be hopeful Hooper can help return the famous old club closer to the summit of the Premiership table. 

The West-Country giants have only appeared in the final of the competition twice since 1996, when they last won the Premiership in its former format. 

"It’s an honour to be leading the club in what we is an incredibly exciting period for us," Hooper told the club's website ahead of their Premiership curtain-raiser clash with local rivals Bristol Bears live on BT Sport.

He added: "We absolutely respect the past, but we want to inspire into the future. 

"We’ve had to make changes and start doing things different to forge a path which allows us to be the successful team that everyone associated with the club strives for."

With so many of their main men absent for the early period of the season, can Hooper oversee an improval on Bath's sixth-place finish?

Hooper looks set to be thrown in at the deep end. How he copes with the demanding rigours of the Gallagher Premiership will go a long way to deciding Bath’s fate.

Rugby World Cup absentees

Francois Louw, Sam Underhill, Joe Cokasaniga, Jonathan Joseph, Ruaridh McConnochie, Anthony Watson.

Key man: Zach Mercer

Mercer, still only 22, was nothing short of super-human last season.

Playing at the base of the Bath scrum, the young forward has been the dominant force on the pitch far more often this season, with impressive work-rate and a nous for grabbing crucial tries.

The England international has always been blessed with pace and agility but the New Zealand-born star has added considerable bulk to aid his impact in defence. 

Mercer has become one of Bath's top tacklers in terms of volume and busiest players without it.

He made the 19th most tackles (212) of any player in the Premiership last season on top of the 4th most carries (272) and defenders beaten (73), and the 16th most offloads (19).

Expect another monumental season as Mercer pushes for more international recognition.

One to watch: Tom de Glanville

The England U20 back has graduated from the academy to the first team but is yet to make his full debut. 

With Anthony Watson, Joe Cokanasiga and Ruaridh McConnochie all likely to be away on England duty throughout the coming months, de Glanville is being tipped for big things.

The 19-year-old has played across the backline in academy rugby but Hooper is likely to employ the talented playmaker at full-back.

Upcoming Premiership fixtures live on BT Sport

18/10/2019 - Bristol Bears v Bath (7pm, BT Sport 1 HD and Ultimate)

25/10/2019 - Bath v Exeter Chiefs (7pm, BT Sport 1 HD and Ultimate)

29/11/2019 - Bath v Saracens (7.45pm kick off)

22/12/2019 - London Irish v Bath (3pm kick off)

04/01/2020 - Gloucester v Bath (3pm kick off)

Find out all of our games chosen for live coverage across the first eight rounds, with 22 matches being shown on TV before the end of 2019.

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