Hall puts Cardiff game top of the bill

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The Independent Online
John Hall, Bath's director of rugby, yesterday described the European Cup quarter-final with Cardiff as "the biggest match in our history".

A sell-out 12,000 crowd will pack the Arms Park on Saturday despite live coverage on BBC Wales, confirming its billing as the biggest Anglo-Welsh club match ever. Between them, the sides boast 23 major domestic titles since 1981, while more than 20 full internationals could be involved in a clash that has Wales versus England written all over it.

Speaking in Cardiff, Hall said Bath intended putting patchy Courage League form behind them and keeping alive their European dream.

"We've already lost in this tournament at Pontypridd, and I expect Cardiff to be a better side than they were," he claimed. "By our standards, you could say that we have had a terrible start to the season. We are still playing some magnificent rugby, it's just that things are a little bit tougher now."

Bath's horizons do not end with Europe. The English champions are planning a two-match tour of South Africa next summer. They hope to play Natal in Durban and Western Province at Newlands, Cape Town

Cardiff, who have also produced some erratic league performances this season, expect their injured international trio, Jonathan Davies, Derwyn Jones and Emyr Lewis, to return for Saturday.

Terry Holmes, the Cardiff coach, said: "Bath have been the most consistent English side for years. It will be a huge challenge for us, but if you want success at this level of competition then you have got to meet, and beat, the best. Let's hope the game lives up to its billing."

In Saturday's other quarter-finals, English rivals Leicester and Harlequins come face to face at Welford Road, while French giants Dax and Toulouse meet head on. Llanelli visit tournament favourites Brive on Sunday. The semi-finals are scheduled for 4-5 January with the final on 25 January.

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