Bath Rugby head coach Gary Gold 'astonished' by Euro away day
Head coach Gary Gold bemoaned the ERC's decision to alter the knockout stages of European competitions after Bath Rugby were handed a hazardous route to Amlin Cup glory.
Previous seasons have seen the top seeds from the pool stages rewarded with home ties in both the quarter-finals and semi-finals but a random draw for the last four was introduced this term.
Despite finishing as the top-ranked side, Bath will have to travel to France in the semi-finals – should they overcome Stade Francais at The Rec in the last eight – after Sunday's draw pitted them against the winners of the clash between Top 14 rivals Perpignan and Toulouse.
"To finish with 29 out of 30 points is an achievement I am pretty proud of and am really happy to have a home quarter-final but just a little bit astonished at how the system works with the draw," said Gold.
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"It's disappointing and even if you take us out of the equation, you look at a team like Harlequins, who got 28 out of 30 points in the Heineken Cup, and they are potentially away to Clermont in the semi-finals.
"I think it's not a very good decision by the ERC but that's the way it is. We knew about it at the beginning of the competition but it's just disappointing that we weren't able to get more of an incentive."
Should both teams get that far, Bath face the possibility of playing current European champions Leinster at their own RDS Arena in the competition's final in May.
With clashes against some of the continent's finest sides in the offing, Gold is determined to relish the road to Dublin.
"We are very excited about the quarter-final against Stade Francais and very excited about going to France to play a semi-final if we are successful," said Gold.
"My attitude is that it will be a really, really awesome trophy to win now. I don't think it can be seen in any way, shape or form as a second-tier competition.
"If we beat Stade Francais, then Toulouse or Perpignan and meet Leinster and beat them, I'll feel pretty comfortable that was one hell of an achievement."