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Heineken Cup Preview: Bath v Ulster

Heineken Cup Preview: Bath v Ulster

The Rec was a happy hunting ground for Ulster last January, and another away victory over Bath would leave Brian McLaughlin’s men nicely positioned ahead of the next month’s final pool matches.

HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 4: Saturday, December 18

BATH (3rd) v ULSTER (2nd), Recreation Ground, 1.30pm (live Sky Sports 1/HD1)

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Team News: Stephen Ferris, who was hugely influential in Ulster’s home win over Bath, will sit out Saturday’s Heineken Cup Pool 4 rematch at the Recreation Ground.

The Ireland and Lions flanker picked up a leg injury in training this week which rules him out of Ulster’s Heineken Cup trip to the West Country.

Taking his place in the back row is South African Robbie Diack who will start at number 8 having recovered from a recent ankle injury.

Willie Faloon has been selected at openside flanker, with Chris Henry making way. Saturday’s match will mark Faloon’s first start in this season’s Heineken Cup.

Faloon’s Ballynahinch club-mate Nevin Spence has retained his starting place in Ulster’s midfield after an impressive showing in the 22-18 victory at Ravenhill.

Previewing this weekend’s return leg, head coach Brian McLaughlin said: “It’s a huge game for us. Last season we beat Bath to get our first win on English soil, but that’s history.

“It’s another game for us and the importance for us moving forward in this competition is immense.

“We have to go there and get a win. Last season it was smashing to win there and there’s no doubt that it gave us great confidence for the rest of the season.

“But this is what it’s all about now and we need to make sure we do a job and come away with the points.”

Meanwhile, 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Danny Grewcock will make his 200th start for Bath in Saturday’s much-anticipated round 4 fixture.

Grewcock joined Bath in the summer of 2001, has been capped 69 times for England, and toured with the British & Irish Lions in 2001 (Australia) and 2005 (New Zealand).

The former England lock, now 38, is part of an unchanged Bath pack, while there are two changes in personnel in the back-line.

There is a welcome return to the starting line-up for South African out-half Butch James. Having injured his shoulder during the Tri Nations in the summer, this will be James’ seasonal bow for Bath.

The England-capped Shontayne Hape also reclaims his centre spot after missing last weekend’s game due to the birth of his third child.

BATH: Jack Cuthbert; Matt Carraro, Olly Barkley, Shontayne Hape, Matt Banahan; Butch James, Michael Claassens (capt); David Flatman, Lee Mears, David Wilson, Stuart Hooper, Danny Grewcock, Andy Beattie, Lewis Moody, Simon Taylor.

Replacements: Pieter Dixon, David Barnes, Duncan Bell, Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, Ben Skirving, Mark McMillan, Sam Vesty, Nick Abendanon.

ULSTER: Adam D’Arcy; Andrew Trimble, Nevin Spence, Paddy Wallace, Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Nigel Brady, BJ Botha, Johann Muller (capt), Dan Tuohy, Pedrie Wannenburg, Willie Faloon, Robbie Diack

Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Paddy McAllister, Bryan Young, Tim Barker, Chris Henry, Paul Marshall, Ian Whitten, Jamie Smith.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referees: Jean-Pierre Matheu, Eric Gauzins (both France)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Bath to win: 4/11; Draw: 20/1; Ulster to win: 2/1

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Pre-Match Quotes: Johann Muller (Ulster) – “In that last 15 minutes (last weekend), Bath started throwing the ball around a bit and they stretched us in defence. There were a couple of tired bodies out there but I expect them to do that from the word go on Saturday.

“If the weather allows it, I think they’re going to try and stretch us a bit and play a little bit more rugby. But, at the end of the day, when you play more rugby there’s a chance that you can make more mistakes.

“Our defence has got to be right up there again and we have to play a bit better. At some stages in the first game, we played some great rugby and at others we were quite poor.

“We gave away a lot of soft turnovers and if we can make sure we don’t give easy ball away, we’ll be right in it.

“(Last Saturday) probably rates right up there with one of my most enjoyable games of the season. It was great fun, it was really tough, it was physical and it was quick.

“To be 15-3 down and to come back and get the win at the end was a really good effort. I really enjoyed it – it was really tough rugby and that’s what it’s all about.

“When the chips are down, like they were in that first half, you really need the team to stand up and to get that win was a very special effort.

“At times we played some excellent rugby. I think they gave away three penalties two metres away from their own try-line and if they hadn’t, we probably would have scored there.

“But it was very important to keep that scoreboard ticking over and Ian (Humphreys) did that really well. When you get penalties, you’ve got to take the points and, credit to our kicker, I thought he was outstanding.”

Brad Davis (Bath defence and skills coach) – “Without a doubt if we want to go through to the next stage then we have to win this match. We will go out there and put in a performance that everyone can be proud of.

“Everyone is waiting for that big win and what we have got to do is keeping improving our performances – clichés aside, we need to take one week and one game at a time.

“Looking back to Ravenhill what you saw from the squad was loads of character, despite us not playing the best rugby we are capable of.

“If we didn’t have that then we would have been turned over by Ulster by a much larger amount of points. The guys made over 170 tackles in the match and possession shows it was 70/30 against us and we were still in the game right at the end.

“If we can tidy up our unforced errors when we have the ball in hand and get an equal share of possession we can cause problems with some clean line-breaks, and if we are a little more clinical then we can finish them off.”

Current Form – Bath – (Aviva Premiership): Won 32-16 away to Leeds Carnegie; Won 20-13 at home to London Irish; Lost 31-10 away to Northampton Saints; Won 31-16 at home to Sale Sharks; Lost 18-3 at home to Gloucester; (Heineken Cup): Lost 12-11 at home to Biarritz Olympique; Won 22-6 away to Aironi Rugby; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 21-15 away to Leicester Tigers; Drew 6-6 away to Harlequins; (LV= Cup): Won 29-19 at home to the Cardiff Blues; Lost 18-16 away to London Wasps; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 17-13 at home to Saracens; Lost 11-6 at home to London Wasps; (Heineken Cup): Lost 22-18 away to Ulster

Ulster – (Magners League): Won 27-26 at home to the Ospreys; Won 22-15 away to Aironi Rugby; Won 29-21 at home to Edinburgh; Drew 15-15 away to Connacht; Won 19-17 at home to Glasgow Warriors; (Heineken Cup): Won 30-6 at home to Aironi Rugby; Lost 35-15 away to Biarritz Olympique; (Magners League): Lost 21-16 away to Edinburgh; Lost 16-6 at home to Munster; Won 37-15 away to the Cardiff Blues; Won 19-9 away to Benetton Treviso; (Heineken Cup): Won 22-18 at home to Bath

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Heineken Cup: Bath – Points: Olly Barkley 16; Tries: Michael Claassens, Nick Abendanon, Tom Biggs, Matt Carraro, Luke Watson, Jack Cuthbert, Lewis Moody 1 each; Ulster – Points: Ian Humphreys 26; Tries: Andrew Trimble 2

Previous European Meetings: 3

Saturday, December 11, 2010 – Pool 4 – Ulster 22 Bath 18, Ravenhill
Saturday, January 23, 2010 – Pool 4 – Bath 10 Ulster 28, Recreation Ground
Friday, October 9, 2009 – Pool 4 – Ulster 26 Bath 12, Ravenhill

Heineken Cup Records:

Bath –
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2008/09: Reached the quarter-finals
2005/06: Reached the semi-finals
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2001/02: Reached the quarter-finals
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
1997/98: Champions
1996/97: Reached the quarter-finals

Ulster –
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2002/03: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
1998/99: Champions
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool B
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool C
1995/96: Failed to qualify from Pool B