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Ford: England quartet have no fear


Bath boss Mike Ford has backed his England quartet to return to the Aviva with no fear

Bath boss Mike Ford has backed his England quartet to return to the Aviva with no fear

Bath boss Mike Ford has backed his England quartet to return to the Aviva with no fear

Bath boss Mike Ford believes his Test stars will "play with courage" when they return to the scene of England's RBS 6 Nations demise on Saturday.

George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson and Dave Attwood are all set for an Aviva Stadium reappearance, barely a month after being part of an England team beaten 19-9 by eventual Six Nations champions Ireland.

Although England ended the campaign in second place with four wins out of five, the loss to Ireland effectively wrecked any silverware hopes.

Leinster are the opponents this weekend, standing between Bath and a semi-final appearance in the European Champions Cup, with the west-country club being among four Aviva Premiership sides all facing last-eight away ties.

"George, Anthony, JJ (Joseph) and Dave, they have just been to the Aviva (Stadium) and they are telling us what it is going to be like," head coach Ford said.

"The learning and the experience of that is valuable for us in our team-talks and in terms of the way we want to play the game.

"In the long run, these players come back better experienced, and the fact they have done what they've done with England this season, they are going to play with courage. They are not going to have any fears of going back to the Aviva."

Bath have not reached the penultimate stage of European rugby's premier knockout competition since 2006, but the return of their England players - plus fit-again Wales prop Paul James - should see them head to Dublin with solid victory hopes.

After losing their opening two Champions Cup group games this season, Bath then reeled off four successive victories - including beating French heavyweights Montpellier and Toulouse away from home - to book a place in the opening knockout round.

"The boys were on fire out there in training today," Ford added. "You could just see the difference when a game like this is approaching.

"With all due respect to London Welsh (Bath's opponents last weekend) and the Premiership and stuff, when you get into the quarter-final of the Champions Cup against a brilliant team like Leinster - and potentially in front of a full house - you don't need much motivation.

"It was a good achievement to qualify (for the quarter-final), and when you come to weekends like this it makes it all worthwhile.

"We have gone out and done some pretty good things this season in Europe.

"I think two years ago we had a problem with the away games, but we have firmly put the away mentality to bed in terms of it doesn't matter where we play, we just go out and try to perform the best we can."

Apart from injured props David Wilson and Henry Thomas, who are both on course to play again this term, Ford has reported a clean bill of health among his squad, meaning some tough selection decisions.

"It is probably the hardest selection I've had since I have been at the club," he said.

"There will be some big players missing this weekend who have done well for us, but I just can't pick them all. It was tough."

And assessing the Leinster challenge, Ford added: "We are playing against a brilliant team that has done very well in Europe over the past few years.

"I want us to be able to go and play our way. With the personnel we've got, and if we click, it could be a good day for us, but we are under no illusions that they are a very good side with some great players.

"I have seen some comments from Matt O'Connor (Leinster head coach) about the blueprint to beat Bath is what Ireland did to England.

"They are going to look to bottle up our scrum-half and get to George (Ford). Whether they will go as aerial as Ireland did, I don't think they will.

"The Leinster way is to come up with a new play, specifically for our defence, so it will be a good test for our principles defensively.

"We want to play the Bath way, which is a load of things, but unless we get our fundamentals in place, we are not going to win."