Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Bath aim to maintain cup record

Stuart Hooper, right, is relishing Bath's cup showdown with Stade Francais

Bath will aim to maintain a proud Amlin Challenge Cup record when they tackle quarter-final opponents Stade Francais at the Recreation Ground on Saturday.

The 2008 tournament winners have secured at least a semi-final place in their four previous Challenge Cup campaigns, and the penultimate knock-out stage again awaits this weekend if they make home advantage count.

"You look around this weekend, and a lot of clubs have got nothing, but we are here and preparing for a European quarter-final against one of the biggest clubs in Europe over the years," Bath skipper Stuart Hooper said. "Everyone is really excited about it and itching to get out there in front of the home support, which should be awesome."

Bath, beaten Challenge Cup finalists in 2003 and 2007, switch wing Horacio Agulla to inside centre instead of an injured Matt Banahan, with Nick Abendanon and Tom Biggs filling the wing slots and young prospect Ollie Devoto continuing at full-back.

Former Stade Francais player Simon Taylor, meanwhile, makes his first appearance since suffering a knee injury in December, packing down in the back row alongside Francois Louw and Ben Skirving.

And the back-row battle is likely to prove key, with Stade parading a powerful unit of Pierre Rabadan, David Lyons and Sergio Parisse, while a strong bench features the likes of Julien Dupuy, Julian Arias and Paul Warwick.

"I've tried to tell the players that the occasion is for other people," Hooper added. "You will look back and, hopefully, enjoy it if you win, but the occasion is a result of how you perform.

"So we will look at trying to get our individual roles right, and then the magnitude of the occasion will take care of itself."