Tandy: It’s do-or-die time

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Published: Saturday 17th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Ospreys boss Steve Tandy accepts that his team’s European Champions Cup ambitions will go on the line against high-flying Northampton this weekend.

The Saints will arrive in Swansea on Sunday buoyed by skipper Dylan Hartley’s return from suspension and aiming to remain firmly on a quarter-final course.

Victory for Northampton – and an anticipated Racing Metro success against Treviso this weekend – would set up a winner-takes-all Pool Five encounter between Saints and Racing at Franklin’s Gardens next Saturday.

The Ospreys, meanwhile, have a slight chance of progressing, but it is not guaranteed even if they win their last two group games.

“When you have the Aviva Premiership champions and current leaders coming to town, then you know it’s going to be a big occasion,” head coach Tandy said.

“It’s do-or-die for us this weekend as far as Europe is concerned, so we know that we’ve got to go out there and give it everything.

“If we can get the performance right, then who knows what can happen?

“All we can do is look after the areas that we can control, and hopefully take it down to the final weekend for us out in Treviso.

“One thing we have seen with this group is that they will never give up on anything. It’s going to be a great contest between two good teams – something to get excited about.”

Northampton are again without England lock Courtney Lawes because of an ankle injury – Sam Dickinson and Christian Day pack down in the second-row – but hooker Hartley is back after missing Saints’ league games against Harlequins, Newcastle and Sale Sharks due to a three-week ban.

“We are top of the pool and are in control of our destiny. We know that two wins will see us qualify,” Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder said.

Northampton’s fellow Premiership heavyweights Bath, who will be without their former rugby league star Sam Burgess as he recovers from a knock, must beat four-time European champions Toulouse at Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday to retain any hope of winning Pool Four.

Bath lost 21-19 when the teams met in the west country three months ago, and Bath head coach Mike Ford expects a different type of challenge this time around.

“They (Toulouse) have changed the way they play since last time,” Ford said.

“They had gone through a few defeats when they played us at home. They were very cautious and quite easy to read.

“They are running the ball from their in-goal area now, turning penalties down at goal which are kickable, taking quick lineouts, quick taps and quick 22 restarts.

“But they have got a lot to lose at the weekend. They are at home and they’re the favourites to go through.

“We are excited about playing Toulouse at their place – we want to see how good we are.”

Wales international prop Paul James will captain Bath in an injured Stuart Hooper’s absence, while injury also sidelines wing Semesa Rokoduguni, so Horacio Agulla wears the number 14 shirt and Kyle Eastmond replaces Burgess in midfield.

Glasgow, meanwhile, are also in Pool Four action on Sunday, hosting already-eliminated Montpellier and chasing a win that would keep them in the quarter-final race heading to Bath next weekend.

And in the second-tier European Challenge Cup on Sunday, victory for Pool Two leaders Exeter against Connacht in Galway would effectively secure a last-eight place.

Published: Saturday 17th January 2015 by The News Editor

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