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Bath Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
European Champions Cup Pool 5
Recreation Ground, Bath,
Saturday, 21st November 2015, 15:15

Television: Live - BT Sports, Highlights TG4

In the light of events in Paris last week and the untimely death of Jonah Lomu, we shouldn't go overboard about a defeat in a rugby match. But taken purely in a sporting context, last Sunday's match was grim viewing for Leinster fans. It started off reasonably okay and Leinster were ahead after twenty minutes. Then Wasps were gifted a try before halftime but even then, most of those present thought Leinster would come back in the second half. However when Wasps scored their second try all the fight went out of Leinster and they succumbed to their biggest home defeat ever in European competition.

Sure Leinster took a big blow on the morning of the game losing skipper Isa Nacewa and then replacing him with Ian Madigan, who hadn't played at full back in three years. Then they lost three of the most effective forwards to concussion in Mike McCarthy, Richardt Strauss and Sean O'Brien. But that doesn't explain how utterly lethargic they looked and how clueless they were in attack. Wasps played well but they didn't have to do that much for their win other than be patient and score off Leinster's mistakes. And boy were there mistakes!

Every single time Leinster got any momentum someone would screw up, knock a ball on, throw a silly pass or kick a ball out on the full. The set piece was awful, the defence poor, quite simply not one aspect of Leinster's play was up to scratch. The home crowd were in shock and the visiting Wasps fans couldn't believe what they were seeing. Speaking to them afterwards, they traveled in the hope of maybe taking a losing bonus point home with them. By the end they were kicking themselves that their side didn't chase a four try bonus point, because Leinster were there for the taking.

It was a massive blow to Leo Cullen to see his side take such a beating at home in his first European game in charge. To lose at home in such a tough group puts the whole team behind the eight ball in terms of qualification. They simply have to beat Bath tomorrow to retain any real interest in the tournament.

Bath's game against Toulon last week was postponed due to the terror attacks in Paris so they'll be fresh coming into this match. They'll be looking for revenge against Leinster after narrowly losing to them in the quarter-finals last season. They played the better rugby at the Aviva that day and out-scored Leinster two tries to nil. They play a great brand of rugby and made it to the Premiership final last season as well. Now that the nonsense with Sam Burgess is over they can concentrate on playing again. Their form has been a little up and down this season, winning two from four in the league, but in their last game out they thrashed London Irish with the type of display that was commonplace last season.

Their head coach Mike Ford has made four changes to the side that started that match, all of which considerably strengthen the team. Three England internationals, Anthony Watson, George Ford and Dave Attwood come in along with South African flanker Francois Louw, who was one of the best back rows in the World Cup. With regular skipper Stuart Hooper dropping to the bench, Louw captains the team and given the damage George Smith did to Leinster at the breakdown last week, stopping the Springbok will be the number one priority.

Leinster have made eight changes, plus two positional switches from last week. Isa Nacewa returns to captain the team from full back and the fit again Ben Te'o and Luke Fitzgerald come into the centre which means Fergus McFadden goes back to the wing. Isaac Boss comes in at scrum-half for Eoin Reddan who is dropped from the match squad. In the pack Cian Healy and Sean Cronin come in to join Mike Ross in the front row while Hayden Triggs makes his first European start alongside Devin Toner in the second row. Rhys Ruddock is fit to return at blindside flanker so Jordi Murphy moves over to openside alongside Jamie Heaslip.

It will have been a tough week in Leinster but the only way to recover is with a response and an angry one at that. Leinster have won on all their three previous visits to the Recreation ground and they'll need to keep that run going otherwise their European campaign will be over after two games.

Team Lineups

Bath Rugby

Leinster Rugby
Teams Anthony Watson 15 Isa Nacewa (C)
Semesa Rokoduguni 14 Fergus McFadden
Ollie Devoto 13 Ben Te'o
Kyle Eastmond12 Luke Fitzgerald
Matt Banahan11 Dave Kearney
George Ford10 Johnny Sexton
Chris Cook9 Isaac Boss

Nick Auterac 1 Cian Healy
Rob Webber2 Sean Cronin
Henry Thomas 3 Mike Ross
Dominic Day4 Devin Toner
Dave Attwood 5 Hayden Triggs
Matt Garvey6 Rhys Ruddock
Francois Louw (C)7 Jordi Murphy
Leroy Houston 8 Jamie Heaslip

Replacements Ross Batty 16 James Tracy
Nathan Catt17 Jack McGrath
Max Lahiff18 Marty Moore
Stuart Hooper19 Dominic Ryan
Alafoti Faosiliva 20
Josh van der Flier
Niko Matawalu 21 Luke McGrath
Rhys Priestland22 Ian Madigan
Tom Homer23 Zane Kirchner

Not Considered
Due to Injury
Jonathan Joseph,
David Wilson

Nick McCarthy,
Edward Byrne,
Mick Kearney,
Rob Kearney,
Aaron Dundon,
Richardt Strauss,
Mike McCarthy,
Sean O'Brien
Officials Referee: Jerome Garces (France),
Assistant Referees: Salam Attalah (France), Laurent Millotte (France),
Fourth Official: Bruno Bessot (France),
Citing Commissioner: Yves Thieffine (France),
TMO: Bruno Bessot (France)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2015-11-20