Bath: We want to avoid Rodney Parade crunch clash with Dragons
9:02am Saturday 19th October 2013 in Sport
A WEST Country derby against Gloucester may be looming but the desire to avoid a humdinger at a hostile Rodney Parade is keeping Bath focused ahead of today's clash with Newport Gwent Dragons, writes Chris Kirwan.
The Cherry and Whites head to the Rec in the Aviva Premiership on Friday but first is the small matter of a crunch clash in Pool Two of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
The Dragons opened up with an expected five-point haul against Mogliano last Friday and 24 hours later Bath managed a huge result when beating Bordeaux Begles 15-6 in France.
The English club would take a giant step towards the quarter-finals if they win and deprive their visitors a losing bonus point while Lyn Jones' side want to win but would also be quietly happy if they head home with something to show for their efforts.
Bath put the Dragons under huge pressure up front when the sides met at Rodney Parade in pre-season only to somehow be beaten 22-20.
They will stick to the blueprint of heavy stuff today but are also a threat behind with Wales star Gavin Henson put in at inside centre to unleash Matt Banahan, Tom Biggs and Nick Abendanon.
Bath have taken a calculated risk by leaving South Africa back row forward Francois Louw, England tyros Kyle Eastmond and Anthony Watson, lock Dave Attwood and hooker Rob Webber on the sidelines.
They also have opted to put Wales prop Paul James – one of the Premiership's best looseheads – on the bench along with in-form fly-half George Ford and electric centre Jonathan Joseph.
But forwards coach Neal Hatley still wants to avoid a winner-takes-all clash when they return to Newport in January.
"After the away win in France, if we beat the Dragons at home we are in good control of the pool. If we don't, it sets up a hell of an encounter going back over the bridge," he said.
"But for us it's more important that we keep building on the momentum we have created. We want to keep on winning to keep moving forward into the two Premiership games we have straight after.
"They are doing well and they've started to play some good football. They rush up hard in defence and it's going to be a good game.
"I think they will target this game as a big one for them. They will bring down Toby Faletau and the likes and turn it into another tough game for us.
"But our home form has been good and the pre-season game seems like ages ago now. I think they are a different side and we've got a lot of players back. I wouldn't read too much into what happened."
Bath: N Abendanon (captain), R Lane, M Banahan, G Henson, T Biggs, T Heathcote, M Roberts, A Perenise, R Batty, D Wilson, W Spencer, R Caldwell, W Skuse, A Fa'osiliva, C Fearns. Replacements: E Guinazu, P James, J P Orlandi, S Hooper, M Gilbert, P Stringer, G Ford, J Joseph.
Dragons: D Evans, W Harries, A Hughes, R Wardle, H Amos, J Tovey, R Rees, O Evans, H Gustafson, D Way, M Screech, R Sidoli (captain), N Talei, L Evans, T Faletau. Replacements: E Dee, P Price, F Chaparro, A Coombs, J Groves, J Evans, K Burton, L Robling.
Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy)
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