Bath out to end Leicester's reign

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The Independent Online

Bath will aim to end Leicester's reign as Guinness Premiership champions on Sunday when the title play-offs take centre stage.

But Bath, who last won the league 14 years ago, know they must avenge the solitary blot on their Premiership landscape since Christmas.

One league defeat in five months suggests Bath have every chance of toppling the Tigers at Welford Road.

That solitary loss, though, was a 43-20 drubbing by Leicester six weeks ago, while Bath also suffered two knockout defeats against them last season in the Premiership and Heineken Cup.

"We are certainly in better shape now than we were this time last year," said Bath head coach Steve Meehan, whose team took 49 points from their last 12 games in the Premiership's regular season.

"We are in a better place physically, and because of the way we have been travelling, in a better place mentally too.

"But we have got to relax a bit. We were pretty tense and uptight going into that away game against Leicester last month."

Bath are likely to be unchanged from the side that booked a play-off berth by beating Leeds Carnegie last weekend - hooker Lee Mears has been their main fitness concern - with Northampton or Saracens awaiting the winners at Twickenham on May 29.

"It will be a case of the players getting their heads up, playing as they have been playing and doing what they do best," added Meehan.

"We have to be true to ourselves. Where we choose to direct our attack will be done by the players when they are on the field."

Saracens head to Franklin's Gardens on Sunday having suffered six successive semi-final losses in four different competitions during the past four seasons.

But after winning at Northampton only three weeks ago - a result they followed up by beating Leicester away - confidence should be high that Saracens can end that miserable semi-final sequence.

"We know Northampton are a very intense and well-coached team. I don't expect anything different this weekend," said Saracens' South African scrum-half Neil de Kock.

"They might adjust a couple of things with regard to the game-plan, but they will be as intense as ever.

"They are a very good rugby team, which is the reason why they are second in the table."

Saracens and Northampton have already met four times this term, with Saracens winning both Premiership fixtures and Saints claiming two victories in the Anglo-Welsh LV= Cup.