Meehan expects Bath improvement

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The Independent Online

Steve Meehan is confident Bath's season will be "up and running" following a quickfire return to Guinness Premiership action.

Bath have won just one game all season, beating Sale Sharks, while their hopes of a Heineken Cup quarter-final place are slim after successive pool defeats against Ulster and Stade Francais.

But head coach Meehan was pleased with a vastly-improved display against French glamour club Stade, albeit tinged by the agony of Julien Dupuy's late penalty which meant a 29-27 defeat.

Bath now face successive home league games, against Newcastle tomorrow and Saracens next weekend, knowing two victories would propel them towards the play-off places.

Meehan said: "We've been trying to get away from being, I suppose, unexpressive.

"We should be happy with the way we went about things (against Stade). We've just got to take our opportunities and finish games off.

"We played a far better brand of rugby than we did against Ulster the previous week.

"We turned that around in a week and we will continue to try to develop it.

"We go back into the Premiership now, with two home games to come. With hard work and application, we can win those games and be up and running again."

Newcastle make the long journey south boosted by successive Amlin Challenge Cup victories over Petrarca and Albi, but are still seeking a first Premiership win this term.

"We are in a good position in terms of the Amlin Challenge Cup, but we know that Bath away is going to be a few levels up in terms of intensity," said Falcons rugby director Steve Bates.

"We know we are not the finished article."

London Irish and Leicester, last season's Premiership finalists at Twickenham, face a Madejski Stadium meeting tomorrow following contrasting European weekends.

While Irish came unstuck at home to the resurgent Scarlets, Leicester made it 11 tries in two Heineken Cup games by easing past Italian hosts Viadana.

And the Tigers head to Reading knowing they were the last team to beat Irish there in a Premiership fixture, winning 31-28 in March.

Northampton, having lost once in the last 38 home games, should underline that impressive statistic by accounting for Franklin's Gardens visitors Sale Sharks tomorrow.

Sale, five places and seven points below Saints, are without England prop Andrew Sheridan, who suffered a dislocated shoulder during the Cardiff game and was set to undergo surgery yesterday.

And Wasps head to Gloucester - the west country club are reeling from a 42-15 Heineken Cup hammering in Biarritz last weekend - minus Sheridan's England and Lions colleague Phil Vickery, who faces neck surgery.

Worcester, meanwhile, host Harlequins tomorrow buoyed by their young centre Alex Grove's selection in the Scotland squad that will prepare to meet Fiji on November 14.

Grove is among a host of Warriors academy products who have adapted quickly and impressively to the senior ranks.

Uncapped Grove has made 26 appearances for Worcester, scoring nine tries. He was part of the Scotland A side which won this summer's IRB Nations Cup in Romania.

Sunday's Premiership action sees unbeaten leaders Saracens installed as hot favourites for a sixth successive Premiership victory over basement club Leeds Carnegie at Vicarage Road.