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Ulster to drain Bath but still fall short

Bath v Ulster, Recreation Ground, TOMORROW (LIVE SKY SP 2, KO 3.45)

It looks like long odds on Ulster gatecrashing the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup for the first time since their stellar season in 1999 in what has been a period of solid progress.

Coach Brian McLaughlin is long enough in the game to know Ulster's destiny is outside their control. He can only plan to beat Premiership club Bath tomorrow.

Stade Francais are not likely to leave Edinburgh without the minimum losing bonus point that would guarantee their safe passage. Moreover, they will be keen to confirm a home quarter-final ahead of this year's final in their city. At the moment, Ulster are not fully equipped to make a prolonged run in the latter stages of the Heineken Cup.

It would better benefit their long-term development to appear as a Pool runner-up in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.

p Verdict: Ulster.