Hooper: A far from perfect start

By Stuart Hooper.   Last Updated: 14/09/05 9:35am

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All the pre-season hype and talk is well and truly out of the way now and it has been a tough start to the year.

We have had a massive wake-up call and been given a huge realisation of what it takes to win in the Premiership. All the players are obviously very disappointed with the first two results but there is a great determination within the squad to put things right.

There have been some hard words from everyone - both from player to player and from the coaches to certain players and the whole squad - but the thing to realise is that we are the ones that made the mistakes on the pitch and we have notified ourselves of what is going wrong.

Of course there have been some harsh words spoken, but understandably so. It is not the perfect start to the season and we are not trying to make out that it is, but it is also not the end of the world, there are 20 odd league games to play and that is the way to look at it.

You can't get down after two games. We all know what it takes to perform at this level and just have to do that now.

We will break it all down and take each aspect of the game individually. We are looking to take it further back than just winning the game but winning the next battle, whether it is a scrum, a tackle or a lineout.

As captain, if I can win those small battles as an individual then it will provide the boys something to grab hold of and some motivation.

On a personal note I am not happy with my performances yet but I feel that in time I will only get better. I improved from the Irish game to the Saracens game and that is all that I can ask of myself. Keep listening to the coaches and keep improving.

The opening two matches have shown us that you can't believe everything that is written before the season. Every team is going to play differently and London Irish played a completely different style of rugby to what they did last year.

Last season they kicked the ball a lot but we learnt from the very first kick-off that it would be very different as they ran the ball straight back at us and ran through eight or nine phases.

Mike Catt played very well against us, and with my head down in the scrum, I didn't get to see a great deal of him, but he is a fantastic player and an experienced professional.

He controlled the game very well, passing the ball wide, and when he throws 20 or 30 yard passes it takes a lot of men out of the game.

Saracens will be a very competitive side this year - they played well against us with a very good scrum and have some fast boys outside, always a good combination.

If you look at the way the games have gone so far this season you have seen that the form book has been thrown out of the window with Bristol winning their difficult first two; to win at home to Bath and then away at Newcastle is no mean feat, so hats off to them.

I think we will see a lot of high-scoring and close games and that will make for a very exciting Guinness Premiership with a couple of young guys coming through.

Tom Rees has been exceptional for Wasps and another back row player, Ben Skirving for Saracens, has really impressed both against us and in the videos I have watched.

Any time that I have had off though, I have been glued to the cricket - I have been all summer - and I was chuffed to bits for the England team this week.

It is fantastic and for them to be led by a Yorkshireman hopefully bodes well for us.