Harlequins will not reveal their hand in cup clash, says Bath Rugby forward coach Neal Hatley
For a professional rugby club to undergo the peculiar experience of back-to-back matches against the same opposition, they'd normally have to compete in the play-off final of the Championship.
But Bath and Harlequins will enjoy consecutive games against one another over the next week thanks to the complexities of the LV= Cup draw. Firstly, they will acquaint themselves with each other tomorrow at The Stoop in the Anglo-Welsh competition (7.45pm), before squaring up to one another in the Aviva Premiership at The Rec on Friday, November 23.
Not that Bath forwards coach Neal Hatley expects the London side to reveal too many of their cards during the cup clash.
Hatley says he and the rest of the Bath camp are taking it one game at a time – and believes the tactics the Premiership leaders adopt on Friday could bear little resemblance to the proposition that will confront Bath at The Rec on Friday week.
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"Knowing the Harlequins coaches as we do, everyone might be a bit cagey on Friday night," said Hatley. "I don't think you'll be able to read too much into what happens then.
"But we are not thinking about the Premiership game yet. The focus needs to be entirely on this LV= Cup game until 9.45pm on Friday night."
The received wisdom is that clubs take their feet slightly off the gas during an LV= Cup week in order to give their players a breather from the slog of the Premiership.
Not so at Bath, where players were put on the rack on Monday, despite the 36-15 win over Newport-Gwent Dragons at the weekend.
"Yes, training was tough on Monday – we were disappointed with one or two areas of our game against Dragons, including our execution at the set-piece," said Hatley.
"In certain aspects, we need to make training harder than games in order to make sure the players are aware of what they are going to be coming up against.
"We set ourselves high standards and if we don't hit them then, win or lose, we need to work hard on them."
Bath are set to field a squad similar to the one that defeated the Dragons. Scrum-half Mark McMillan did not train at the start of the week after taking a knock on Saturday, but Hatley says McMillan is likely to be "in the mix" for tomorrow's clash.
Like Bath, Quins won their opening LV= Cup pool match, a late try by promising young playmaker Ben Botica giving them a 31-30 win at Northampton.
Bath expect the reigning Premiership champions to try and play with their trademark panache tomorrow, and will set about restricting their options with ball in hand.
"The key to stop them attacking is for us to keep the ball," said Hatley.
"Quins are an attacking side and they make lots of quick lineouts and offloads.
"We have looked hard at that and we know what's coming."