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CLEAR MOUNTAIN: CLERMONT AUVERGNE v BATH
Bath have a clear mountain to climb in France against Clermont on Sunday. It is too late to reach the summit of Pool 3, never mind the Champions Cup itself, but another massive challenge also awaits. Bath must build confidence, credibility and cohesion for significant Premiership contests ahead. Last Friday’s tie was close until half time, but Clermont’s power and precision took over in the second half. If they can claim a bonus point away, they surely pose a daunting prospect in front of their home support.
MASSIVE CHALLENGE: BATH v ASM CLERMONT AUVERGNE
Bath face a massive challenge hosting ASM Clermont Auvergne in the European Champions Cup on Friday evening. Having succumbed to Premiership Champions Saracens last week, Bath must beat last season’s Top 14 runners up and European Challenge Cup winners to remain in contention. The men from the Massif Centrale have been prominent in both European and domestic rugby for a decade and, replete with internationals, are packed with power, pace and pedigree. The result seems a foregone conclusion. Or is it?
BACKS TO THE WALL BATH v SARACENS
Both teams will have their backs to the wall when Bath host Saracens on Friday evening. The premiership and European Champions are in siege mode because of their salary cap breach and the ire it has drawn from other clubs. Bath because of recent results, the pallid manner of their latest defeat at Quins and a growing list of injured key players. Saracens, for all their woes, appear to be in rude health, Bath, still seeking consistency and cutting edge. So will home advantage be enough for Bath to prevail?
CITY SLICKERS: HARLEQUINS v BATH
Bath’s quest to revive their European ambitions begins away to “city slickers” Harlequins on Saturday. Both sides lost in the opening round, although Bath’s losing bonus point against Ulster gives them the slightest edge in Pool 3. Little separates the clubs over the past two seasons. Points difference placed Quins higher in the Premiership last season while Bath now lie 2 points above Quins in 9th. Both teams will hope to be boosted by World Cup returners, so who looks likely to triumph this weekend?
PREVIEW: BATH v ULSTER
Bath will need to reprise the defiance of their win over Saints against Ulster at the Rec on Saturday. Resistance has been the defining characteristic of Ulster since 1690, epitomised by the apprentice boys watchword “No Surrender” at the siege of Derry and evident in the politics of the Province to this day. It would be fitting therefore for Bath to trump it with a performance for “Fortress Rec” to be proud of. So, in this season’s opening European tie, who will triumph?
TOPSY TURVY? BATH v NORTHAMPTON SAINTS
Top meets bottom on Saturday in the week that turned the Premiership topsy turvy. Saracens 35 point punishment for salary cap breaches, since suspended pending appeal, is the biggest news of the week, overshadowing even the return of an England squad who gave their best World Cup performance for 16 years. For Bath and Saints though the news, although loaded with implications, is secondary: they have a match to play. So- who will cope with the distraction best and who will win?
Build on the Buzz: Wasps v Bath
Bath will want to harness the buzz of last week’s victory when they visit Wasps on Saturday. The character and tenacity that turned the team’s fortunes from one derby to the next are just the start. Now they will be looking for a complete performance and the first away win of the season. Winless Wasps sit only a point off the bottom courtesy of a losing bonus point. They seem highly vulnerable, but will be desperate for a first win of their own. Will they react with venom when their nest is poked?
Circle The Wagons: Bath v Exeter Chiefs
Bath will need to circle the wagons for the onslaught of Exeter Chiefs at the Rec on Friday. Last week’s record derby defeat to Bristol will have all Premiership rivals eager to add to Bath’s pain. There was little to cheer in the score line or manner of defeat, while Mercer and Clark are likely additions to the growing injury list. This seems a bad time to be hosting last season’s top try scorers, who are ruthless in finding and exploiting weakness. The Rec must expect a brutal siege.
BRISTLING WITH INTENT? BRISTOL V BATH
Will Bath be bristling with intent when they travel to Ashton Gate for Friday’s Premiership opener? They should be. Defeat by the Bears in the corresponding fixture last season set the tone for another inconsistent and disappointing campaign. Pat Lam has suggested he may play his battle hardened World Cup returners, while much of Bath’s strike power remains in Japan and their back row is depleted by the tournament and injury. Can Bath bait the Bears in their own pit and begin with a bang?
Glaws v Bath - A day out at our dear neighbours
If its possible to have a friendly against our dear neighbours, then surely this is it, with both teams already eliminated from the knock out stages of the Premiership Cup, relegates this match to preparation for the real action of the premiership in a fortnight’s time.