Win needed to keep Bath running.
After a humbling re-introduction to the top tier of European rugby last weekend, Bath will hope to get their campaign up and running against continental kingpins Toulouse.
Bath came into this season’s competition with renewed optimism after a promising start to their domestic season suggested they were finally ready to return to the glory days of the 80s and 90s. However the 1998 European champions were quickly brought back down to earth with an opening day 37-10 defeat at Glasgow.
Toulouse, on the other hand, had their chances written off before a ball had even been kicked after losing five in a row in the Top 14 – and with memories of last year’s quarter-final capitulation to Munster still fresh.
But Guy Noves’ side are live contenders for a place in the knock-out stages after victory over Montpellier last weekend. This followed hot on the heels of their 21-10 triumph over back-to-back European champions Toulon in the French league and suggested the club may not be in crisis after all.
What cannot be denied is that the four-time European champions are a pale shadow of the force they were in their pomp.
They do still, however, possess some real star quality with Toby Flood and Kiwi Luke McAllister pulling the strings in midfield, and proven finishers Yoann Huget and Maxime Medard helping to form a potent looking back-three, with the competition’s record try-scorer Vincent Clerc in reserve.
With aging stars such as Thierry Dusatouir and Imanol Harinordoquy leading the charge up front, they certainly do not lack for experience.
However, how well the French aristocrats fare at the Rec on Saturday should tell us how far they have fallen from Europe’s top table.
Mike Ford’s Bath side are probably coming from the other end of the spectrum with a clutch of young attacking talent coming through. Bath certainly possess the attacking brio in George Ford, Kyle Eastmond, Jonathan Joseph, Semesa Rokoduguni to match the very best in Europe, however it remains to be seen if they can compete with some of the more grizzled grunt units out there.
Pool 4 is a finely balanced group with all four teams harboring realistic ambitions of coming out on top.
If Bath are to keep alive those hopes they must win their home matches and, with the further incentive of having to atone for last week’s heavy defeat, are expected to come out on top here. Bath half-time/full-time is available at 4/6.
The match kicks off at 3.15 on Saturday October 25 at The Recreation Ground.