RUGBY: Ford primes Bath for Sharks test

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Bath head coach Mike Ford Bath head coach Mike Ford

BATH head coach Mike Ford hopes the "extra man'' factor can help his side subdue the challenge of an "underrated'' Sale Sharks side at the Rec on Friday.

Third-placed Bath host the fast-improving fifth-placed Manchester side hoping to take another large step towards the end-of-season Aviva Premiership play-offs (7.45pm).

The Sharks caused a major upset at the top of the table on Saturday when they defeated second-placed Northampton Saints, who remain ten points clear of Ford's men, 19-6

Sale are seven points behind Bath and fourth-placed Leicester and could add another twist to an intriguing campaign by inflicting a third successive home reverse on the home side following the league defeat by Saracens and LV= Cup semi final loss to Exeter.

Ford told bathrugby.com: "This is a huge game for both teams – a win for us would see make us a bit more secure in the top four, whilst for Sale it would narrow the gap and potentially see them break into the play-off spaces as the season nears the climax.

"Sale looked very good last weekend – they beat a team (Northampton) that have been in the top two all season, and will be full of confidence from that win.

"The experience and strength they have in key positions is vital for them, and we know they'll bring a big battle at the breakdown.''

"We know exactly what a threat they are - they're probably one of the most underrated sides in the Premiership – and when they hit a run of form they can be a very dangerous side.''

Bath returned to winning ways with a 43-24 win at London Irish on Saturday night and Ford added: "(We) really got back on track on Saturday against London Irish, and we'll be looking to take that momentum into the game on Friday.

"We worked smartly to break them down and when we did, we could release the backs, who are in flying form at the moment. We took the sting out of the crowd and emotion of the occasion and then took our chances when we created them, earning ourselves a vital five points.

"The boys love playing in front of a big crowd on a Friday night and the atmosphere that comes with it, and with so much importance on this one, it would be great to have a packed house come kick-off as it feels like an extra man."

Tickets fior the Sale clash are available from the Bath Rugby Ticket Office with individual adult tickets starting at £24 and savings available for groups of five or more.

Phone 0844 448 1865, visit the ticket office on Pulteney Bridge or see bathrugby.com.

MORE BATH RUGBY NEWS & REACTION AT WILTSHIRETIMES.CO.UK/SPORT AND IN THIS WEEK'S WILTSHIRE TIMES

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