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Preview: Saracens v Bath rugby

Preview: Saracens v Bath rugby

Guy Mercer is under no illusions about the importance of Bath Rugby’s final match of the season, and the flanker insists the players are ready to end their Aviva Premiership season on a high and qualify for the Heineken Cup.

Bath sit seventh in the Aviva Premiership ahead of a final day trip to league leaders Saracens and know only a win will give them an outside chance of finishing in the top six and qualifying for Europe’s elite club competition.

Even victory might not be enough with sixth-placed Exeter Chiefs hosting Gloucester Rugby in the knowledge that victory will render any Bath heroics meaningless.

And with Bath needing to make history by becoming the first visiting team to win at Saracens’ Allianz Park in all competitions Mercer and co will need to be at their very best.

Saracens are already guaranteed a home semi-final in the play-offs but will be determined to bounce back from their Heineken Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Toulon at Twickenham last weekend.

But despite the odds being stacked against them, Mercer insists Bath are ready for the challenge ahead.

“There is a lot riding on this game for both sides,” said the 23-year-old. “Saracens will want to bounce back from their Heineken Cup exit and they won’t want to go into a semi-final off the back of three straight defeats.

“And we want to be playing in the Heineken Cup and we know we need to win to do that. It’s knock-out rugby and these are the sort of games you want to be playing in so everyone can’t wait.

“We have been talking about this being a real opportunity rather than something daunting or something we should fear.

“We proved we belong up there by beating Leicester last time and we have to bring the same attitude at Allianz Park.”

Saracens currently top the Aviva Premiership and with a home semi-final already guaranteed you could be forgiven for thinking they will take things easy against Bath.

But having lost last time out in the league at Gloucester before seeing their European charge ended last weekend veteran prop John Smit insists Sarries will be going all out for a win to ensure they arrive in the play-offs full of confidence.

“It’s an important game for us as well because we have to make sure our home ground remains a fortress and we have that confidence to retain and to work on,” said the former South Africa captain, who will leave Saracens at the end of the season to take over as the Natal Sharks chief executive.

“Confidence is a very strong tool at this time in the season and that’s what Bath presents and we’ll need to play well to be successful.

"They have become a far better organised unit. They are far more difficult to beat these days under the guidance of Gary Gold. He’s given them a lot of guidance so we’ll have to be very well prepared.

“They have a good set piece and they don’t just run everything now I think like they used to. They put you in corners and they put you in uncomfortable situations and how we manage those will decide how far we go against them.”

Allianz Park (2.30pm) Live on Sky Sports HD

Referee: Martin Fox (90th Premiership game)

Assistant Referees: Nigel Carrick & Roy Maybank. TMO: Graham Hughes.

For more news, try out Bath Rugby Match Preview Saracens
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