Bath keen to make amends
October 8, 2010
South African back-row Luke Watson is the key player in the Bath line-up © Getty Images
Former champions Bath welcome Biarritz to the Recreation Ground on Sunday intent on atoning for last season's dismal European campaign.
After winning the Challenge Cup in the summer of 2008, Bath had been expected to mount a serious bid for top prize in the ensuing seasons. However, they bowed out at the end of the Pool stages in 2009-10, having registered just one win from six games.
Biarritz, by contrast, progressed all the way to the final, beating Ospreys and Munster along the way, only to come undone against Toulouse in the tournament decider. Consequently, it is fair to say that both sides are not wanting for motivation ahead of this weekend's encounter.
Bath - Player to Watch: With Lewis Moody ruled out, there will be even more emphasis on skipper Luke Watson to deliver yet another Herculean display from the back-row.
Bath - Team News: The aforementioned Moody has been sidelined through injury but No.8 Watson has been cleared to start despite being forced off with a rib/back problem at half-time in last weekend's defeat by Gloucester. Simon Taylor starts at openside while David Wilson and Nathan Catt are the props.
Biarritz - Player to Watch: Biarritz's veteran scrum-half Dimtri Yachvili remains a key figure within their ranks, as evidenced by his 22-point haul in last weekend's win at Bayonne.
Biarritz - Team News: The Basques have received a massive boost with the news that star centre Damien Traille is available for selection after five months out through injury and he takes a place on the bench. The Lund brothers, Magnus and Erik, start in the pack while former England wing Iain Balshaw starts on the wing against his old club.
Key Battle: The scrum is a major area of concern for the home side after the way in which they were dominated by the Gloucester front-five at the Rec last weekend. Expect Campbell Johnstone and company to try to pile on the pressure come scrum time on Sunday.
Trivia: Bath's record of five defeats from six games last year's Heineken Cup constituted their worst ever showing in the tournament.
Stats: Bath have lost more lineouts (15) in this season's Aviva Premiership than any other side.
"It is a question of the whole team being absolutely on the ball, and we need to play in an aggressive and committed fashion. If we can get the simple things right, then our chances will come." - Bath head coach Steve Meehan
"The banter hasn't started yet but I'm sure I'll be sending a few texts when we start travelling and it's one of the best places to play in Europe. It really is a fantastic place to run out for a game." - Biarritz wing Iain Balshaw, talking to BBC Sport
Prediction: It should be a tight game but home advantage should just swing it in Bath's favour - the Biarritz pack will need some convincing, however.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter