David Flatman: We must stuff Biarritz, then treat them to a dodgy pasty

From the Front Row: It's only October but our Heineken Cup opener at home to tasty French today is a must-win game

Can you have a must-win game in October? Well, we have, and it's today. And the good news is that the team we have to beat are currently trailing French Top 14 leaders Toulouse by just four points.

OK, so let's be frank. The club will not disappear if we come off second best but somehow this Heineken Cup clash at home to Biarritz feels like more than just a competition opener. Our start to the season has pitched and dived and, as is the way in sport at any level, it is the dives that stick so resolutely to the walls of the players' minds. This is an unfortunate phenomenon but one that can be tackled in just one way: by winning. Losing repeatedly does so much more than cost a team a few points in a table. It serves to perpetuate the plunge in morale, to exacerbate the sense of inadequacy and to feed the demons of defeat that lie hungry, waiting for a chance to feast on a man's fear.

Let us remember, though, that despite two terribly disappointing defeats to Northampton and Gloucester, we remain in the sacred top four of the Aviva Premiership. This is because we are a good side, we just need – at the risk of drifting into football-manager speak – to be good every time. Yes, I am stating the bleeding obvious but for that I do not apologise, for consistency is an asset increasing exponentially in value.

So today gives us what sport so often does, a chance to put things right. In Imanol Harinordoquy, Biarritz have one of the greatest all-round players in the game. I used to watch him and, as we all naturally do, decide from my armchair exactly what sort of person he was by observing his body language and general demeanour. I labelled him a moody, petulant drama queen, and I was bang wrong.

I recently spoke to Iain Balshaw, Harinordoquy's team-mate, and he put me straight: "The bloke is a complete legend. Intelligent, super-talented and rock hard with it." I removed my amateur psychology diploma from the wall and sat down to eat some humble pie.

My guess is that by about 10 past one this afternoon – kick-off being at 1pm – you will be able to tell who the likely winners are. The first few collisions will set the physical tone for the contest and the attacking intentions of both sides will be evident just as quickly. I suspect that, with Dimitri Yachvili calling the shots as ever, their game-plan will be created predominantly on the move, with the maestro playing what he sees. His decisions will be backed up by a bruising pack of forwards, including chain-smoking behemoth Jérême Thion, hellbent on achieving ascendancy from the start. The old unspoken rule of the French being woeful, uninterested travellers is now a memory.

The well-documented level of cash being thrown at the French clubs these days means it is not at all surprising that the respective investors are becoming ever more demanding. So, arriving on opposition turf and leaving one foot on the bus home won't cut it any more. They will come to win and it is our job, as representatives of not only our beloved club but, on this occasion, our nation, to let them know their weekend in leafy Bath might be an uncomfortable one.

Certainly, we want our visitors to feel welcome, but I'm afraid that will have to wait until after the game. Then we can treat them to a can of nicely warmed cider and a microwaved pasty in return for all the gorgeous seafood and wine we have always been offered across the Channel. Got to show the lads a good time, right?

Early days or not, it is time for a reaction. We have too good a squad and operate in too good an environment for losing to ever become acceptable. The words of journalists and pundits alike are certainly fuel, but the real kindling has to come from within and from the moment the famous shirt is pulled on. We don't question the opinions of onlookers, we seek to change them and the only way to do this is to perform, all the time. This afternoon we have a chance to banish the demons from whence they came, and to send home our visitors with some of their own.

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
Sport
A view of today's Spanish papers
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
News
people

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
books

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London