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BATH RUGBY: Old rivals stand in way of cup chance
GARY Gold has put Bath’s European progress on the backburner to focus on the competition that may hold the best route to a return to next season’s Heineken Cup.
Bath face back-to-back west country LV= Cup derbies with Exeter at home tomorrow (2.15pm) and at Gloucester next week, victories in which could book their passage to the knockout stages.
With the club currently off the pace in the Aviva Premiership and having been handed a perilous route to glory in the Amlin Challenge Cup, Gold said: “It’s an important competition for us because it’s probably the route of least resistance to be able to get a Heineken Cup place for next year.
“We know how tough Exeter are. From an attacking point of view, they are as good as anybody in the competition.
“We’re taking it very seriously. We are desperate to win silverware and play at that (top) level of competition.’’ Bath cruised through the Amlin Challenge Cup pool stage as top seeds, booking a home quarter final with Stade Francais, in April.
But they face a daunting trip to Perpignan or four-time Heineken Cup winners Toulouse in the last four – and could face deposed Heineken Cup champions Leinster in their own backyard in Dublin if they reach the final.
Gold, who may have back row Carl Fearns and hooker Rob Webber available for tomorrow’s clash, said: “I’m pleased to be at home in the quarter finals, but just a little bit astonished with how the draw works.
“But that’s the way it is and we knew about that at the start of the competition.
“That will be a really awesome trophy to now win and won’t be seen in any way, shape or form as a second-tier competition.
“If we beat Stade Francais, Toulouse or Perpignan and then Leinster, I’m going to feel pretty comfortable with that as an achievement. That’s as tough as any Heineken Cup draw we can get.’’