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Birds of Prey: Newcastle v Bath
The Falcons are flying high and waiting to pounce on Bath. Seventh in the Premiership may seem a modest position to Exeter, Saracens or Wasps but for a club that have spent the last decade hovering above relegation these are exciting times. Pushing for a place in the top six they see European Champions Cup rugby as a realistic ambition for next season. Having triumphed at the Rec they will be hoping to swoop for the kill against a Bath team ravaged by injury and Six Nations call-ups.
SAINTS RESURRECTED? BATH v NORTHAMPTON
Bath face a revitalised Northampton Saints when Premiership action resumes at the Rec on Friday. It may be too early to claim they are resurrected, but Saints have certainly come alive since Alan Gaffney took over at the turn of the year. In that short time they have shrugged off their mid –season lethargy and won four of five fixtures in all competitions, including a surprise victory over European giants Clermont. Should we therefore expect them to descend on Bath in a blaze of glory?
RARE BIRDS: OSPREYS v BATH
Rare birds will be the theme for Bath at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea on Friday evening. Their hosts are symbolised by the Osprey, close to extinction in Britain not long ago. Bath seek the silverware that has eluded the club for ten years. Bath’s two most recent items of silverware in captivity were gained a decade apart, the last ten years ago. Sadly those did not prove a breeding pair, but the Anglo Welsh Cup still offers, perhaps, Bath’s best chance of a trophy in ten years.
A CHANCE TO REFRESH: BATH v FALCONS
After frustration and disappointment in Europe, Bath get a chance to refresh against Newcastle on Saturday. Clubs often use the Anglo Welsh Cup to rest key players, experiment with new combinations and develop academy talent. Bath, with a lengthy injury list, plus international absences, must be tempted to wrap fit key men in cotton wool to save them for Premiership games in the 6 Nations period. All those injuries restrict selection though and this cup could also be the best chance of silverware for Bath this season. It will be fascinating to see how the coaches balance those factors in their lineup to be announced on Friday
BUBBLE OR QUITS? BENETTON V BATH
Bath’s European hopes hang by a slender thread as they prepare to play Benetton on Saturday. Last week’s shock defeat by Scarlets has handed Bath the steepest of challenges. Knockout qualification is mathematically possible but will require one of their pool rivals to hammer the other and a number of improbable results in other pools to go their way. Whether they make the knockout rounds or not, the squads response will set the tone for the rest of the season.
COML has been invited to join with other groups to give input into the development of the Rec. I have agreed with Hasta and PG Tips to represent COML on these meetings which are monthly. The meetings are for a communication line between us and the Club and vice versa.
RAGS TO RICHES? BATH V SCARLETS
The Rag Doll will be up for grabs in Bath’s European Cup encounter with Scarlets on Friday. The iconic mascot has been the trophy in Bath: Llanelli matches for over a century, but this week Bath will have a bigger prize in mind- a passport to the knock out rounds. Bath lead a close pool, with Scarlets third. Either side can qualify, but defeat would almost certainly end their hopes before the final pool round. The two clubs scored 13 tries between them last weekend: a great clash is promised -in a pivotal match.
SEVERN BELLS? WORCESTER v BATH
Neither coach will need to wind their team up much when Worcester host Bath on Friday evening. Both sides have frustrations to work out –for different reasons- and will want to knock seven bells out of each other. Warriors climb off the bottom of the table has stuttered with defeat in 3 of their last 4 matches, while Bath could suffer their 4th premiership defeat in succession. The prospect of celebration bells for Worcester ringing out over the Severn sounds alarm bells for Bath.
Ring in the New: Bath v Wasps
The euphoria of beating Toulon proved short-lived due to Bath’s humbling defeat at Sale. The players’ and coaches Christmas may well have been somewhat muted as a result. Next the squad must summon up early New Year’s Resolution when they host third placed Wasps on Friday evening. Whatever resolution they choose, fans will hope for instant and robust response to any future setbacks. Hopefully that begins this week – high flying opposition requires a most gutsy response.
The Christmas Market closed last week but Bath travel north on Saturday in search of a festive bargain. Two stirring performances against Toulon have sharpened their edge and buoyed their confidence, so they will be hoping for an early Christmas gift. Bath have snapped up several pedigree presents in away matches this season, but Sale are a notoriously tough nut to crack at home. So-what sort of Bath performance can we expect, absolute cracker or total turkey?