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Ford raises Bath ambitions

Mike Ford admits Bath would have taken a top six Aviva Premiership finish at the start of this season but that has now been overtaken by realistic play-off ambitions.

Bath host Wasps on Saturday knowing that victory would keep them in third place with just seven league games left.

They might be 10 points behind second-placed Saracens and 11 adrift of leaders Northampton, but the west country club are unquestionably genuine title contenders.

"They (Northampton and Saracens) will be tough to catch - I wish we had a 10-point lead - but there have been a few wobbles out there," Bath head coach Ford said.

"Leicester just got through their last two games, Saracens lost to London Irish and we had a scare at Exeter, so it could easily all happen again this weekend.

"We would have taken top six right at the beginning of the season, but where we are now we want to get to the play-offs.

"If you get into that, it's then a straight shoot-out. And if we are away from home, we will take that.

"You can work it out, saying over the last five years you need an average number of points to get into the play-offs. I've done that in the past and I've probably got it on my laptop, but I've not done that for ages.

"We've prided ourselves on just getting better every day, and this is the next game. We still think we are improving, but we've not won anything. It's extremely tight, and we have just got to keep doing what we are doing."

Wasps will arrive at the Recreation Ground on the back of a home defeat against London Irish that irked rugby director David Young.

Wasps went down to a 23-20 loss, despite Irish playing most of the second half with 14 men after scrum-half Tomas O'Leary was sent off for stamping.

"Last weekend was not an acceptable performance for us," Young said.

"This group of players have set much higher standards than that on a consistent basis this season, having won eight games from 11 in all competitions before last Saturday.

"As a group, we have put that display to one side and are now totally focused on producing the kind of performance we have been used to."

Gloucester captain Mike Tindall and his former England colleague - Sale Sharks wing Mark Cueto - both make their 200th Premiership appearances on Saturday when they oppose Harlequins and Worcester, respectively.

"It's an amazing achievement, it really is," Gloucester rugby director Nigel Davies said of Tindall's landmark.

"The fact of the matter is that he's not just making his 200th appearance, he is actually playing very well at the moment. He was outstanding last weekend up at Leicester.

"His influence on the team is very important because they are a young group. We are trying to develop leadership within the group, but there aren't a lot of natural leaders there.

"Someone like Mike adds a lot of value to the team, a lot of the stuff that you don't see in terms of the way he energises and drives the group."

Cueto will look to increase his Premiership try tally of 84 - an ongoing league record - against Worcester, but the Warriors desperately need points in their continued fight for Premiership survival.

"This is an opportunity to put in another shift, and if we reach the level we have in the last two weeks, we might get something from it," Worcester rugby director Dean Ryan said.

"We're getting some unity around the group week after week, and if we can do it again we will cause problems for Sale."

Sunday's Premiership action, meanwhile, sees Northampton make the trip to Newcastle, with Saracens hosting Exeter and London Irish tackling Madejski Stadium visitors Leicester.

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