English duo Bath and Harlequins meet at the Rec this Friday in a dead rubber round five Champions Cup game where both sides are only playing for pride. 

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There is no way either team can mathematically make it out of Pool 3, with only one win between them after four matches – and that was Harlequins’ November victory over Bath at the Stoop. 

While Stuart Hooper’s side will be seeking revenge for that round two loss, the result would mean little more than that. 

It is no surprise then that the Bath boss has rung the changes, viewing this fixture as a vital opportunity to rest some players who have been key to their recent Gallagher Premiership revival. 

Harlewuins’ Paul Gustard hasn’t had that luxury as much, as his team remains near full strength. This may be out of necessity rather than choice because the London side have a disheartening injury list. 

(Continue reading below…)

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A positive is that injuries have provided an opportunity for 22-year-old Luke Northmore to make his first start – and this may indeed be a platform for Quins to build some confidence seeing as their opponents are weakened. 

While some first-choice players are still starting for Bath as well, the eyes of both clubs are firmly set on the Premiership.

After eight rounds, there is room for improvement for both sides as Bath sit in sixth and Harlequins eighth, both level on 17 points. With their European hopes quashed for another year, the priority of this game – and their respective round six fixtures next week – is for both sides to come through the contest unscathed. 

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This is especially important for Harlequins, who simply cannot afford to lose any more players. Such is the crisis that some are questioning the choice to play Alex Dombrandt this week after resting him in last week’s more important league loss to Sale Sharks. 

That is ultimately the balancing act that Gustard faces with such a stretched squad at the moment. 

This is the reality for some sides when it gets to this January stage in the Champions Cup. Matches become a chore in many ways for those that have no hope of progression and it is simply a case a surviving with no more problems. 

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