Bath and Glasgow battle it out at Firhill
November 10, 2011
Bath will look to Matt Bahanan for inspiration © Getty Images
The Glasgow Warriors will be going all out to bring some cheer to Firhill against Bath on Sunday in a week where they have seen one of their favourite sons announce he is to leave the club at the end of the season.
Scottish second-row Richie Gray will move south of the border come June to join Steve Diamond's revolution at Sale but under the guidance of Sean Lineen, Glasgow will hope to cause some waves in Pool Three of the Heineken Cup. They have struggled in the RaboDirect PRO12 thus far, however, having bid farewell to Max Evans in the summer and were forced to start the season without skipper Al Kellock who was on Scottish duty. And their Heineken Cup pedigree is not something to shout about having only made the quarter-final play-offs back in 1997-98 where they went onto lose 90-19 to Leicester.
It was 1998 when Bath took their sole Heineken Cup trophy beating Brive in the final. They have since reached the semi-finals of the tournament back in 2006 - where they were dumped out by Biarritz - and lost to Leicester in the quarter-finals back in 2009 - a year when they defeated Glasgow home and away in the pool stages. Since then they have been poor by their high standards and have failed to progress from their group but with Sir Ian McGeechan at the helm they have a man in charge who knows what it takes to win Europe's biggest prize.
And Bath have recruited substantially over the summer bringing in Springboks flanker Francois Louw, World Cup winning fly-half Stephen Donald and Samoan prop Anthony Perenise amongst others. With Heineken Cup champions Leinster and Top 14 runners-up Montpellier in their group, both sides will be going all out to ensure they get off to a winning start.
Glasgow Warriors - Player to Watch: Richie Gray announced this week that he would be leaving Glasgow at the end of the season and journeying south to Sale Sharks. He'll be sure to test Bath's rookie hooker Ross Batty at the lineout as well as taking the game to Bath with his customary charges in the loose.
Glasgow Warriors - Team News: Glasgow make eight changes from their previous outing with Stuart Hogg coming in at full-back, Rob Dewey and Graeme Morrison resuming their centre pairing and Colin Shaw replacing Federico Aramburu on the wing. Hooker Pat MacArthur and tight-head prop Mike Cusack return to the front row while Rob Harley and Ryan Wilson start at blindside flanker and No.8.
Bath Rugby - Player to Watch: Matt Banahan continues to confound his own coaches as much as the opposition's. The giant Bath back failed to make an impact at the World Cup and continues to shift around the backline without truely finding his feet. With Bath favourite Olly Barkley close to full fitness, Banahan must make a lasting impression if he wants to retain the No.12 shirt that he will sport on Sunday.
Bath Rugby - Team News: World Cup winner Stephen Donald will make his Bath debut if he is called from the bench while Banahan returns to the Bath starting XV alongside Dan Hipkiss in midfield, with Matt Carraro ruled out with a broken thumb. Youngster Tom Heathcote take the No.10 shirt with Sam Vesty dropping to the bench. David Flatman, David Wilson and Ross Batty start in the front row after Lee Mears was injured in training. Ryan Caldwell partners Stuart Hooper in the second row. Francois Louw moves to blindside flanker and Guy Mercer starts at openside after Ben Skirving also picked up an injury in training.
Key Battle: The midfield confrontation has physicality and ferocity written all over it. Both pairing of Banahan and Hipkiss and Morrison and Dewey will fancy their chances of blasting over the gainline and setting their forwards on the front foot.
Trivia: Olly Barkley needs two points to become Bath's all-time top scorer in the Heineken Cup with Jon Callard currently on 216 points
Stats: The now retired winger Thom Evans is the only Glasgow Warriors player to have scored a hat-trick for the side - ironically against Bath back in 2008-09
"This is an absolutely massive match for everyone connected with Glasgow Warriors, and we'll have to be right at the top of our game in every aspect of our performance to continue our good recent run."
"These first two games of the Heineken Cup are quite pivotal. They are not the be all and end all, but we know that after them our next two games are against the champions."
Prediction: Glasgow to take full advantage of some inexperience in key areas for Bath as they pull off a narrow victory at home and deal an early blow to Bath's euro hopes.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Firdose Moonda talks to Rob Louw about the difficulties of being a South African touring New Zealand at the height of Apartheid
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