Ulster out to keep the pressure on
December 16, 2010
Andrew Trimble rounds off a solo try at the Rec last season © Getty Images
Biarritz's surprise loss to Aironi last weekend has opened the door for Ulster to make a late surge for top spot in Pool 4 of the Heineken Cup but they must be wary of underestimating a canny Bath side at the Rec on Saturday.
But the loss of talisman Stephen Ferris means that Brian McLaughlin's side, who won an error-riddled contest 22-18 at Ravenhill last weekend, know they will need to repeat their feat of 12 months ago and humble Bath on home soil - without their best player.
The Premiership side have been on a dismal run of form after promising much in the opening weeks of the season but with a big crowd expected and plenty on the line, victory could herald a turnaround in fortunes heading into a bust Christmas period.
Bath - Player to Watch: The return of Butch James has been something Bath fans have been looking forward to all season and the fly-half takes his place opposite Ian Humphreys.
Bath - Team News: James makes his first start of the season for the hosts, who celebrate Danny Grewcock's 200th appearance.
Ulster - Player to Watch: Ruan Piennaar has failed to spark since arriving at Ulster but while he wasn't great last weekend, he showed glimpses of the sniping break the Irish side shelled out for.
Ulster - Team News: Ferris, Ulster's best player last week, is out of the clash with a leg injury in what is a hammer blow to their Heineken Cup prospects. Young gun Willie Falloon comes in at openside with Pedrie Wannenburg moving to six and Robbie Diack in for Chris Henry at No.8.
Key Battle: The back-row battle was won by the Ulstermen last week, but the loss of Ferris is a massive one and it's up to South Africans Wannenburg and Diack to take up the ball carrying slack. Quick ball spells danger when the Irish side are in town - a few of last week's dropped passes could stick this week and Bath will be made to pay unless they stop them at source.
Trivia: Bath had two players sent off during last season's meetings with Ulster - losing Andy Beattie at Ravenhill and Danny Grewcock at the Rec - both for stamping.
Stats: If Ulster pick up the points this weekend it will be their fourth straight win over Bath in Europe following last season's back-to-back triumphs.
Quote Unquote:"We firmly believe it's in our hands and we are good enough and capable enough to win all three matches. We're confident in the return match we can do a job against these guys and put us back in the hunt to qualify." - Bath supremo Steve Meehan wants Bath to win three from three.
"We have got to keep winning if we want to reach the quarter-finals - you can't rely on qualifying as a runner-up or we will end up in despair like last year. Last weekend's results mean that our fate is in our own hands again." - Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin wants his side to take their chance.
Prediction: Ulster will be desperate for the points but after plenty of mistakes at Ravenhill, expect Bath to sneak this one in front of some vocal home support.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin
Last year's thrashing at the hands of Wales was not the first time England have fallen to their rivals. Scrum Sevens looks at whether they have bounced back the following year
With just two rounds left in the 2014 championship, the intensity cranks up a notch at Twickenham. Tom Hamilton previews the weekend's action
"I had a perfect record against England as did a few other Welshmen. England always seemed to bring the best out of us." John Taylor on the age-old rivalry