FAN'S VIEW: Cup success not Mission Impossible but still a big ask
Bath Rugby supporter Glyn Edwards gives his take on events at The Rec...
Mission: win a trophy in 2013.
Phase 1 – accomplished by finishing pool stage of Amlin Challenge Cup as top seeds for the quarter-finals.
Phase 2 – realistically need to win both remaining LV= Cup pool games to reach semi-finals.
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Phase 3 – win LV semi-final and final in mid-March.
Phase 4 – overcome Stade Francais at The Rec and then either Perpignan or Toulouse in southern France in late April to reach Amlin Cup Final in Dublin.
Mission Impossible? It’s a tall order, certainly, given Bath’s inconsistent form so far this season but surely something like that must be etched on a wallboard in the Farleigh operations centre.
With only the top four places in the Premiership guaranteeing a Heineken Cup place next season – as well as the chance to become league champions in May – the two cup competitions offer Bath by far the best chances of rejoining Europe’s elite in 2013-14.
In the Anglo-Welsh LV= Cup, Bath are potentially only three victories away from reaching their first domestic final since the 2005 Powergen Cup defeat to Leeds at Twickenham.
The successor competition draws smaller crowds at less salubrious venues these days, despite the additional spice of Welsh opposition and the continuing large revenue stream that it represents to the participating clubs.
Nevertheless, it remains a relatively easier option for Heineken Cup qualification than the Premiership route, even if many clubs seem to see it as a proving ground for the further development of younger players and an opportunity for fringe squad members.
However, the character of the Amlin competition has changed markedly since Bath won their last silverware – its European Challenge Cup predecessor – under Steve Meehan in 2008.
Now that three Heineken Cup pool second-placed teams drop down into the Amlin quarter-finals, the knockout stage resembles a possible Heineken last-eight from not very long ago.
Leinster, Toulouse, Wasps and Bath – as former European Champions – feature alongside Perpignan, Stade Francais, Gloucester and Amlin holders Biarritz. Not a second-rate line-up by any stretch of the imagination.
In truth, Bath – despite their top-seeds ranking – look like one of the weaker teams on current form, so it will likely require a considerable improvement in consistency of performance for Gary Gold’s men to succeed.
Maybe just the challenge they need?