Win or bust for Bath
October 15, 2010
Bath toiled in defeat to Biarritz last weekend © Getty Images
Bath travel to Italy on Saturday to take on Aironi at the Stadio Luigi Zaffanella, with Steve Meehan's side eyeing five points following disappointment in the opening round of the Heineken Cup.
In front of their home faithful at the Rec last weekend Bath showed remarkable naivety to pass up a chance for the winning drop goal against Biarritz, going down 12-11 to Dimitri Yachvili's boot.
Over in Belfast, Ulster were getting off to a flyer by running a bonus-point past Aironi. Bath's task is plain: five points from Italy puts them back in the hunt in a group that is set to be fiercely contested by three well-matched sides. Aironi are desperate for their first win of the season, however, and Bath must guard against any complacency.
Aironi - Player to Watch: Ludovic Mercier's boot will be vital to Aironi's hopes. He will need to take every opportunity presented to him if they are to pull off a shock result, while he will also need to put his aggressive pack on the front-foot.
Aironi - Team News: Quintin Geldenhuys replaces Carlo Antonio del Fava in the second-row while Italy international Pablo Canavosio beats Tito Tebaldi to the No.9 jersey. Giulio Rubini, Jaco Erasmus, Simone Favaro and Matteo Pratichetti also return.
Bath - Player to Watch: Olly Barkley ended up being Bath's fall guy last weekend thanks to the drop-goal that never was but the former England midfielder needs to fire if his side are going to leave Italy with all five points.
Bath - Team News: Ben Williams replaces Shontayne Hape in midfield, while Tom Biggs is handed a start on the wing in place of Australian Matt Carraro.
Key Battle: The Aironi pack is chock-full of burly ball-carriers and a couple of ferocious props - Bath must hold their own in the tight exchanges to allow their superior backline room to do their stuff.
Trivia: Bath are currently on their worst away run of form in Europe, having lost their last four games away from the Rec.
Stats: Bath's records for highest score and most tries in the Heineken Cup came in Italy - with 56 points put past Padova in 1999-00 and seven tries past Treviso in 1996-97.
Quote Unquote: "We're fully aware of what we need to achieve in Italy. Any time you go away - whether to Ireland, France, or, in this case, Italy - it's going to be a tough challenge and you're going to have to be physical. At the same time, you would like to think that we've probably got more speed on our game than Aironi have, a better skill-base and a better game." - Bath defence and skills coach Brad Davis
Prediction: Aironi will kick and scream for all they are worth up front but Bath have plenty of quality to call on out wide. Five points for the visitors.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown
John Griffiths takes an analytical look at Week 3 of ESPN Scrum's Fantasy Rugby game - who should you have picked?
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin