Bath Rugby ready for revenge-seeking Gloucester on derby day
First-team coach Mike Ford says Bath Rugby are preparing themselves to feel the full force of a resurgent Gloucester side when the two go head to head on Friday night.
Bath ended a lengthy winless run against their West County rivals with an emphatic 32-5 LV= Cup success last month and Ford has few doubts the Cherry and Whites will be going all out for revenge at The Rec (8pm).
Since being humbled at Kingsholm, Gloucester have racked up Aviva Premiership wins at Northampton Saints and at home to Worcester Warriors, and pushed Wasps mighty close in defeat at Adams Park.
“Gloucester are a good side,” warned Ford. “We beat them in the LV= Cup but then the week after they went to Northampton and won.
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“We probably did them a favour. They probably had a bit of a look at themselves, which you do when you lose.
“You go back to basics and you come out fighting the week after.
“They’re a good side, they’ve got international players back, it’s a derby game, we beat them at Kingsholm and they’ll be ready to get revenge, so it’s going to be a real contest.”
Tomorrow’s result could have a major bearing on either side’s ambitions of reaching the Premiership semi-finals, with Bath currently sitting seven points adrift of their fourth-placed visitors.
A win will provide Gary Gold’s side with plenty of belief heading into the competition’s closing stages but Ford admitted defeat will leave them hard pushed to overturn the gap between them and the top four.
“You’re looking at trying to get five-point wins from every one of the next six games, or at least 27 or 28 points,” said Ford. “It will make it harder because the others are going to win as well as they go along.
“We’ve got some good teams still to come – I think three of the top four sides, which will be challenging – but we will worry about that after Gloucester.
“They are coming here looking for a win which would put them away from us.
“We know historically how many points we need to finish in the top two, top four and top six.
“We know if we’re on target or not. There are seven games left and we know what we have to do.
“We’re in this competition to win it. We’re not favourites by any stretch of the imagination and we’re probably not even favourites to finish in the top six but we’re confident in our own ability.
“If we can get a win on Friday night we believe we’re back in the mix – that’s all we’re concentrating on.”
Bath are sweating on the fitness of Matt Banahan ahead of tomorrow night’s game, with the centre having missed the 25-23 weekend defeat at Northampton with a back spasm.
Francois Louw is touch-and-go having limped off in the home win over London Irish a fortnight ago but Stephen Donald, who was also injured in that game, is definitely out.
“Francois is in the mix,” said Ford. “He’ll have a fitness test later in the week but he’s been running. We’re hoping he will play.
“Stephen won’t make it this weekend but we’re not too sure yet on Matt Banahan.
“He’s not trained yet but we’re hoping he’s going to make it this weekend. I think he’s got the best chance of all three.”
Captain Stuart Hooper is again unavailable due to a neck problem but prop Davey Wilson is back having been released from England’s Six Nations squad for Premiership duty.