Bath to battle for European spot


Published: Thursday 4th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Bath will effectively find themselves in knockout rugby mode when they tackle European Champions Cup opponents Montpellier on Friday night.

Successive defeats against Glasgow and Toulouse during the tournament’s opening flurries in October mean that Bath cannot afford any further Pool Four slip-ups.

And the hard work begins with back-to-back clashes against Montpellier, starting in France and continuing at the Recreation Ground in eight days’ time, while current pool pace-setters Glasgow and Toulouse will feature on Bath’s January schedule.

Reaching the quarter-finals represents a tall order, but Bath maintained strong domestic form throughout November and they have no intention of throwing in the towel.

“We are going into it (Europe) with some form, but in this fixture I don’t think form comes into it,” Bath flanker Carl Fearns said.

“It’s basically a knockout game. We can turn around our tournament if we get a win.

“It is going to be massive in the set-piece on Friday, and we need to dominate there.

“This is a competition we want to play in, and it is a massive stage, so it’s about now and putting right the first two games.”

Sam Burgess, meanwhile, looks set to make his Champions Cup debut after the former rugby league star was retained among Bath’s replacements for the Montpellier trip.

Burgess made a long-awaited union bow six days ago, coming on as a second-half substitute during Bath’s 25-6 Aviva Premiership victory over Harlequins.

And he is now poised for a first taste of European action, with the west country club strengthened by returning England backs George Ford and Anthony Watson in their starting line-up, while red rose forwards Rob Webber, David Wilson and Dave Attwood join Burgess on bench duty.

Montpellier, one point above Bath but seven behind group leaders Glasgow, are led by lock Thibaut Privat, while a dangerous-looking back division features the likes of Benjamin Fall, Rene Ranger and Wynand Olivier.

In the European Challenge Cup second tier on Friday night, Newcastle can take a considerable stride towards securing quarter-final status if they beat Kingston Park visitors Stade Francais.

The Falcons’ away victory over Newport Gwent Dragons last time out has put them in pole position, although a Stade team containing the likes of fly-half Morne Steyn and wing Digby Ioane can revive last-eight hopes by winning on Tyneside.

“The boys are confident for our chances,” Newcastle’s England international prop Kieran Brookes said.

“We know if we play as well as we can, we have the chance to come away with a win.

“They (Stade) will be physical, intense and play of the cuff. We expect them to come here with all guns blazing so they can look to set themselves up for a big game in the return fixture next week.”

Published: Thursday 4th December 2014 by The News Editor

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