Bath v Leinster, The Rec
Leinster eye wounded Bath
December 9, 2011
Stephen Donald played a central part in Bath's win over Montpellier © PA Photos
Pool 3 leaders and defending champions Leinster travel to The Rec to take on second placed Bath in a crucial Heineken Cup clash on Sunday.
Leinster are again setting the pace, as they head the table with seven points after a victory over Glasgow at home and a draw with Montpellier in France. Bath are two points adrift of their Pool three rivals having overcome the French side but lost in Scotland.
While Leinster have found their form recently with impressive back-to-back wins in the PRO12, Bath are struggling. They have won just once in their last five fixtures in all competitions. Bath's last victory was that win over Montpellier and they are desperate for a win with Glasgow just a point behind them in the table. Victory over the reigning champions would be a major boost for their season, in and out of Europe.
Bath - Player to Watch: Stephen Donald struggled against Worcester a fortnight ago and with Bath failing to find form in the league, he will aim to guide the West Country side to an important win against the Heineken Cup champions.
Bath - Team News: Southern hemisphere duo Francois Louw and Stephen Donald are back for Bath Rugby with Louw coming in on the blindside with Guy Mercer and Simon Taylor completing the back row. Ryan Caldwell and Dave Attwood combine in the second row, whilst David Flatman and David Wilson scrum down either side of Chris Biller, who will make his first start for Bath Rugby. Donald returns to partner Michael Claassens in the half-backs, as Matt Banahan and Jack Cuthbert line up in the wings. Olly Barkley and Dan Hipkiss form a new centre partnership, with Nick Abendanon returning to full-back
Leinster - Player to Watch: Ireland fullback Rob Kearney will aim to showcase all of his immense talent on Sunday. He has kept a relatively low profile since the World Cup but back on the stage he knows so well, expect a big performance from the British & Irish Lion.
Leinster - Team News: Kearney starts at fullback with Isa Nacewa and Luke Fitzgerald on the wings. Fergus McFadden and Gordon D'Arcy are in the centres while Jonathan Sexton and Isaac Boss take the half-back reins. Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross form the front-row with Leo Cullen and Damian Browne in the locks. Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip provide the grunt in the back-row.
Key Battle: The battle of the scrum-halves proves to be fascinating. Michael Claassens has failed to find the same sort of form of a couple of season ago while Boss needs to perform every weekend if he is to stave off the threat of Eoin Reddan.
Trivia: Bath and Leinster met back in the 2005-06 season with Bath prevailing in Dublin and Leinster winning at the Rec.
Stats: Olly Barkley needs just two points to become the club's all-time top points scorer in the Heineken Cup
"All four teams in our group still have a shout of going through. The main thing for us is to make sure we beat Leinster in the next game. If we can get a win against them at home everything will really open up and it will be a massive game against them away the following week."
"It is over on a ground that is very sticky, it is hard to get a real momentum and I think that might slow us down a bit. That means it becomes a bit more of a grind, the scores tend to stay closer together and you have to stay fully concentrated throughout the full 80 minutes."
Prediction: It's hard to look past Leinster for this clash. Bath are in the midst of a woeful run of form while Leinster know what it takes to get a result at tough grounds like the Rec.
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