9:01am Thursday 9th January 2014
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons centre Ross Wardle has stressed that Bath will be heading to Rodney Parade with a lot more than just a set piece sledgehammer on Saturday.
The English outfit have one foot and four toes in the quarter-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup and will secure Pool Two top spot if they avoid defeat in Newport this weekend (kick-off 2.30pm).
The Dragons know from experience that they must stand up to the Bath front eight if they are to give their extremely slim qualification hopes alive.
The teams have met twice this season with the hosts somehow sneaking the spoils after being bossed up front in a Rodney Parade pre-season friendly before being overpowered 26-10 at the Rec in October.
Bath enjoyed set piece dominance in the West Country and put the squeeze on through their well-drilled driving lineout.
They will no doubt head over the Severn Bridge with intentions to repeat the trick but have other tricks up their sleeve.
Bath sit third in the Aviva Premiership and have impressed thanks to the attacking skills of fly-half George Ford, centres Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph, wing Anthony Watson and full-back Nick Abendanon.
They are likely to shuffle their side for Europe but will still field a host of dangerous runners – with former Wales star Gavin Henson possibly charged with putting them into space.
But Wardle, who made his Dragons debut against Bath in 2012, believes the Dragons' defence is up to the challenge.
"It's going to be a tough game and they are flying," said the 22-year-old. "Bath are a good side and I think their threats are out wide.
"They will try and get around our defence but hopefully we can nullify that risk. If we get out the blocks then we can close off the outside channels and send them back down the middle.
"Bath have changed their mindset, they are seeing what can happen out wide and using players like Eastmond, Joseph, Banahan, Abendanon, who were maybe wasted players earlier in the year.
"But we've got to make sure we don't get beaten up because we were bullied at bit when we went to the Rec."
Wardle has enjoyed a fine campaign but endured a frustrating festive period while Ashley Smith and Pat Leach got the nod in midfield.
He was limited to 20 minutes on the wing when Cardiff Blues were beaten at Rodney Parade on Boxing Day and then just two at centre when the tables were turned at the Arms Park on New Year's Day.
He said: "I wanted to play in the derbies, especially because I left Cardiff when I was 16. They said I was too small and I would have loved to go up against the club that let me go.
"But Ashley and Pat played well and did a job so I can't have too many complaints. At the time it seems to be everything but it's just two games and I am here until at least 2017 so there will be plenty more chances to play them.
"And if I am playing this weekend hopefully I can prove myself and stay in the team."
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