Bath keen to end Saints hoodoo


Published: Friday 20th February 2015 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

Bath boss Mike Ford admits “we know what is coming” when Aviva Premiership title rivals Northampton arrive at the Recreation Ground on Saturday for a table-topping clash.

A bonus point victory would take Bath above Saints as league leaders, but history suggests otherwise.

Bath have beaten Northampton just once in the last nine meetings across all competitions, while it is four years since Ford’s men claimed a Premiership win against the reigning English champions.

“They are a very good team at playing direct,” Ford said. “We know what is coming.

“It doesn’t matter what team we put out or what team they put out. They are going to play the same way and it’s very difficult to stop.

“Beating Saints is our next step. They are the only team we’ve not beaten in my time (at Bath) yet.

“It’s a huge game for us but there is still a long way to go in the season, whether we win or lose.”

England’s RBS 6 Nations programme means Bath will go into battle without the likes of star backs Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson and George Ford, but Saints also travel lighter than usual as internationals Dylan Hartley, Luther Burrell and Wales wing George North are among their absentees.

Bath were beaten by third-placed Saracens last time out and flanker Matt Garvey said: “A reaction is something we want, absolutely.

“Their (Northampton) pack is quite formidable and if we are not at the top of our game the result will only go one way.

“To be a top four team, to be a championship team, these are the games we should deliver on.

“It’s a huge confidence thing that if you get drawn against one of these teams in the play-offs, it’s valuable experience if you have beaten them before.”

While Northampton and Bath continue to forge ahead, an increasingly-congested scramble for play-off spots is unfolding beneath them.

Saracens, who visit Sale Sharks on Saturday, are just four points above Leicester in seventh, with Wasps and Exeter also pushing hard.

Exeter are at Harlequins on Saturday, where the Chiefs are unchanged following last weekend’s win against Newcastle, which means England squad member Jack Nowell again starting in midfield alongside Sam Hill.

“With Quins being one of the teams in contention around us, obviously it becomes a very important game for the both of us,” Exeter head coach Rob Baxter said.

“They are obviously a very good side. They have been at the top end of the competition for quite some years now, and they have even won it recently.

“Where we are lucky now, I suppose, is that we are playing teams around us in the competition.

“Some people and some sides would be scared of that, but we see it as a great opportunity.

“To be playing Harlequins this weekend is somewhat double-edged as it gives us the chance to try and win some points, while at the same time we’re looking to stop one of our rivals getting points, and that is how we have to look at it moving forward.”

Gloucester, beaten just once this year, should encounter few problems against Kingsholm visitors London Welsh on Saturday, with the Exiles 20 points adrift at the Premiership basement.

“We’ve prepared this week in exactly the same way as we did for Leicester last week,” Gloucester rugby director David Humphreys said.

“We have made sure that the players know what to expect from London Welsh, but are also fully understanding how we need to play.

“When you are playing teams below you in the league who haven’t had a good season, there is the temptation not to prepare in the same way you would normally.

“But we’ve done everything the same to ensure that we will be ready to go, physically and mentally, when we hit the pitch on Saturday.”

Sunday’s Premiership action, meanwhile, is in Reading, where Leicester will aim to end a league try-drought against London Irish.

The Tigers have not claimed a touchdown in 223 minutes of Premiership action – their longest barren spell in the competition since November 2010 – and there is added motivation with Leicester aiming to avenge a home loss to Irish earlier this season.

Leicester have won on their last five trips to the Madejski Stadium, while Irish are chasing a first Premiership double at Tigers’ expense for 12 years.

Published: Friday 20th February 2015 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

Local business search