BATH head coach Mike Ford hopes the hurt of his side’s Aviva Premiership play-offs near-miss can fire them towards European glory next week.
Ford saw his men’s hopes of progress into the Premiership semi-finals ended as Harlequins’ 19-16 win at the Stoop last Saturday allowed them to leapfrog Bath into the all-important fourth place.
For Bath, who had been inside the top four for virtually the entire campaign to that point, it was a bitter pill to swallow – but they can still end the season with silverware by beating Northampton in the Amlin Challenge Cup final in Cardiff next Friday.
Ford told the Wiltshrie Times: “The (play-off) disappointment has gone now, we’re not going to dwell on it. We’ll come out with all guns blazing.
“It’s a great opportunity to sit down at the end of the season and say ‘there’s some silverware.’ It would be a great reward for the club and the organisation.
“But Northampton aren’t going to say’ here you go Bath, here’s a trophy, we’re going to have to earn it.’’ Ford is convinced his men have proved they deserve to be considered Premiership heavyweights again despite ultimate Premiership failure.
“Sometimes they say the table never lies, but we are a top four side,’’ he insisted.
“You look at (the home game with) Sale and Northampton and perhaps the draw at Leicester and put all that in the mix and we could have been fighting for the top two.
“We will learn. We’re excited about the future and the whole mindset of the organisation to finish first and get better.
“Basically, it came down to the last play of the season. After all that sacrifice and the way we’ve played, with excitement and positivity, to miss out like that is hard to take.
Hooker Rob Webber could be fit for England’s summer tour of New Zealand after knee ligament damage sustained in the draw with Northampton two weeks ago wasn’t as bad as first feared.
Fellow hooker Ross Batty will miss the Amlin final with a shoulder injury, but should be fit for pre-season.
Argentina hooker Eusebio Guinazu will leave the club at the end of the campaign, but scrum-half Chris Cook has agreed a further 12-month stay.
Centre Gavin Henson has been named for Wales’ senior trial match on May 30, after a three-year international absence, but may not feature because Premiership clubs do not have to release players outside the international window. Prop Paul James has also been included for the trial match.
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