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Fired-up Bath put pride on the line

For a team with Bath’s proud tradition, losing to Ulster simply isn’t an option.

A fifth Heineken Cup defeat would be an embarrassment for Bath Rugby says forwards coach Martin Haag.

They go into this afternoon’s final-round encounter knowing they are out of the running for both a Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final place following just one win in five games.

And Hagg, who was a Heineken Cup winner with Bath 12 years ago, admits that seeing Ulster possibly secure a last-eight spot at The Rec would add further insult to injury for the proud West Country club.

“For me it would be rather embarrassing if Ulster got a bonus-point win,” said former second row Haag.

“Ulster can't be underestimated, but it's not about Ulster. It's about what we do.

“If we get our game right — if we have a performance perhaps like the one we had against Gloucester here at The Rec just after Christmas — we know that we can beat any team on our own patch.”

Ulster travel to Bath knowing that a bonus-point win could see them pip Stade Francais to top spot in Pool 4 if the Parisians slip up in Edinburgh.

Ulster fans have great belief in a team that is moving forward and slowly taking shape, but overcome Bath is a tall order.

“This is an important game — it's the Heineken Cup,” added Haag. “We're in a good place, touch wood, and we've also got people coming back.

“We've got a very fit squad at the moment, with lots of selection issues and lots of people to pick from, so it's great.

“This is an opportunity for us to perhaps relax a bit and play. Everyone wants to play in the Heineken Cup, it's going to be a sell-out and we've got to do justice to the competition and the supporters.“

For Ulster to defy the odds they must reproduce the heroics they displayed against the English men at Ravenhill and couple it with the flair that helped crush Stade Francais in Belfast.

It’s a huge ask for McLaughlin’s young, emerging side, but they actually fancy their chances.

Belfast Telegraph