Thursday 29 September 2016

Bath aiming to ignite campaign in daunting trip to champions

Andrew Baldock

Published 10/01/2016 | 02:30

4 April 2015; Mike Ford, head coach, Bath. European Rugby Champions Cup Quarter-Final, Leinster v Bath. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
4 April 2015; Mike Ford, head coach, Bath. European Rugby Champions Cup Quarter-Final, Leinster v Bath. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Bath will aim to ignite their European Champions Cup campaign this afternoon at the start of a punishing three-game schedule. The Aviva Premiership club tackle Champions Cup holders Toulon at Stade Felix-Mayol, before taking on Leinster in the RDS next Saturday evening and then facing Toulon in the West Country.

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The Toulon away game was among several European fixtures postponed earlier this term following the Paris terror attacks.

It would be a demanding programme at the best of times, but Bath go into it on the back of a defeat against Premiership strugglers Newcastle seven days ago, while their last European outing produced their record home defeat in the competition, a 36-10 loss to Wasps.

Bath, though, did it the hard way last season, reaching the Champions Cup quarter-finals despite losing their opening two group games, and they will need to summon some of those heroics this time around.

"A lot of good things happened for us in Europe last season, and the win in Toulouse was huge for our confidence," said head coach Mike Ford.

"We will know in just over two weeks' time whether or not we have a future in the Champions Cup this season. It is a big few weeks for us, but we've known this was coming since the first-round game was postponed.

"All the odds were against us last year after losing our first two matches, and we know we need to do something special again this year to qualify for the quarter-finals. But there is nothing more exciting than going to take on the best teams at their own grounds.

"Toulon obviously want to make it four titles in a row, but they have found the Champions Cup more difficult this year. They have lost to Wasps, and we feel we have a game that can cause them problems."

For their part, Toulon are without the likes of injured backs Leigh Halfpenny and Matt Giteau, but they remain favourites to win Pool Five.

"We must remain calm and have a positive spirit," Toulon back-row forward Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe said. "We have some very important games coming up. We will work hard - there is no magic formula - and it a case of being concentrated on the small details."

Meanwhile, Wales international scrum-half Rhys Webb could be back in action by the end of next month. The Ospreys number nine suffered a serious foot injury during Wales' final World Cup warm-up game against Italy in Cardiff four months ago.

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