Friday, December 07, 2018

Preview : Bath v Leinster

We have played Bath quite a bit in European competition over the past few seasons, although even though Leo Cullen was in charge last time, there aren't many comparisons to be drawn to the sides due to play in the Rec on Saturday.

That fateful day in Nov 2015 will be remembered mostly for two things…we were absolutely mullered in the scrums for one thing, but also it came less than a week after we got humiliated at home.

Given we have already put the Wasp demons to bed in this very similar pool, is there any reason to doubt we can't enforce a reversal on the other Premiership outfit?

Well it's certainly a strong team we're putting out, that's for sure.  Some might raise an eyebrow at Noel Reid's selection at 12, but I have a theory, or more of a ‘hot take’ really, that he has been working closely with Dr Phil (no stranger himself to switching back and forth from 10 to 12) and if so he should be well prepared to slot into the role that would have been slated for either Henshaw or Tomane.

But as for the rest of the team, it's nigh on top notch, even without Scott Fardy.   Leo's hand might have bee forced for this one given Nick McCarthy's injury which meant JGP was needed, but I have a feeling this was decided a while ago which is why Scott got to mind the youngsters in the recent Pro 14 rounds, a role he seems to have enjoyed.

And I have to say it's great to see Ross Molony back in contention at this level, even if it's from the bench.  One of the many highlights of our recent successes has been lineout  (regardless of which team throws in) domination thanks to himself and Fardy.  With Messrs Toner & Ryan also doing very well in that area, we should have good continuity throughout the 80 minutes.

As for the scrums, they have gone full circle or us since that last defeat over there.  I always contend that we were a bit unfortunate to have only 3 of 15 put ins that day, but still our overall control in this set piece has been vastly under reported lately what with all the other impressive areas where we have been excelling.

When it comes to our opponents, they haven't been doing so well this season it has to be said, but they definitely have players who can hurt us, not least of which are their wingers Rokoduguni and Cokinasinga.  I can't help feeling they'll be putting Noel Reid's channel to the test.

But when it comes to tackling, overall this fifteen seems to have more than enough to keep the home side's score down.  As much as I'd like to see us rack up the points, particularly for an away match in Europe right after one we narrowly lost, we can probably afford to play things sensibly in the early stages, letting our hosts try to find a way through or around us if they can.  With proven poachers van der Flier and Leavy both on the park, it certainly won't be easy for them.

With the likes of Sexton, Lowe & Larmour in attendance, you can be sure we will be able to create some chances and all going well, the bookies prediction of 14 points, very ambitious for an away side even one that are reigning champions, could well be within our reach.

But I'm going to dial back the optimism a tad, partly out of superstition, partly out of consideration for a squad that's just coming back together at the start of what I call a “meaty” portion of the campaign.

After what happened in Toulouse, obviously any kind of bonus point win would be ideal, but I can't help feeling we might be a shade behind our best although we should still prevail by 8 to 10 points.

Bon voyage to all those travelling over! JLP


Bath : 15. Ruaridh McConnochie 14. Semesa Rokoduguni 13. Jackson Willison 12. Jamie Roberts 11. Joe Cokanasiga 10. James Wilson 9. Will Chudley
1. Nathan Catt 2. Tom Dunn 3. Henry Thomas 4. Dave Attwood 5. Charlie Ewels © 6. Tom Ellis 7. Sam Underhill 8. Francois Louw
Replacements 16. Jack Walker 17. Jacques van Rooyen 18. Max Lahiff 19. Elliott Stooke 20. Matt Garvey 21. Kahn Fotuali’i 22. Cooper Vuna 23. Alex Davies

Heineken Champions Cup 2018/19 Round 3
Saturday, December 8, 2018
KO : 3:15pm
Recreation Ground 

Ref: Mathieu Raynal (France)  
Assis Ref 1: Pierre Brousset (France) 
Assis Ref 2: Vincent Blasco Baqué (France)  
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019