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Stronger Bath squad for return clash against Cardiff

Bath will parade a number of international stars when they look to remain in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final mix on Thursday.

Cardiff Blues arrive at the Recreation Ground just five days after brushing Bath aside 28-3 in south Wales, and a repeat performance would put them out of sight as Pool Four leaders.

A Bath win, though, means the heat is back on their opponents heading into next month's final two rounds of pool action.

And the west country club are buoyed by a return from injury for South Africa international flanker Francois Louw, who makes his first appearance this season, packing down alongside back-row colleagues Taulupe Faletau and Tom Ellis.

England backs George Ford and Jonathan Joseph also feature, and Bath rugby director Todd Blackadder said: "We are really pleased we've had a short turnaround between games. It means we can get back out there quickly, get back into our stride and perform the way we know we are capable of.

"We would have liked to have put a stronger team out last weekend, but there are no excuses.

"We can turn it around, but actions speak louder than words, and we have to do that. If you don't turn up and execute, then you can be beaten."

Blues head coach Danny Wilson added: "The boys are looking forward to a really exciting opportunity to go to a great venue and play a very well-coached and well-recruited team.

"They are going into this with some confidence off the back of a win, but they know what the challenge is to beat Bath at home - it is massive, and it would be a huge result.

"We go there as big underdogs, but we go with that confidence from a good performance and result. If we play similar to that, we will test them on their patch."

In Pool Five on Thursday, leaders Edinburgh can keep the pressure on second-placed Harlequins if they beat Stade Francais in Paris.

A 28-23 victory over Stade last weekend kept Edinburgh in pole position, and head coach Duncan Hodge said: "Stade Francais are a huge club in European rugby and have some fantastic international players in their squad.

"They are a physical side and have some real attacking threats in the outside backs, so we need to be prepared for whatever they throw at us."


From Belfast Telegraph