Bath Rugby travel to Ulster for their Heineken Cup opener
Bath head coach Steve Meehan takes his side to Ulster this weekend for what the Australian expects will be a unique experience.
The 1998 Heineken Cup Champions begin their current campaign at Ravenhill on Friday night hoping to improve on last season's quarter-final showing.
And with knockout qualification in mind, Meehan's men will be desperate to get off to a winning start at one of Europe's most-intimidating venues.
"We went to Ulster as a squad last year for a pre-season game and I've been there a couple of times with Stade Francais over the years," said Meehan, who was on the wrong end of two narrow defeats with the French giants in 2003/04 and 2004/05.
"My experience there has been that the rain comes across right to left and almost horizontally; there's a nice breeze there for one team; and the supporters let you know if you make an error.
"I've had one first this season already when we went to Sale and there was grass on the pitch and the weather was fine, and we're hoping for a repeat!
"The Ulster supporters are also pretty keen to let the staff in the stand know what's happening around the place as well.
"But that's also an enjoyable aspect because it's done in a good natured way. They're great supporters of their team and Ulster are a tough team to beat. I've always enjoyed going there, and we hope the team does this week."
Bath have been grouped with Meehan's old charges Stade Francais and high-flying Edinburgh in arguably one of the most even pools in this year's competition. All four of those sides have made it through to the knockout stages before and any one of the quartet could do so again this year.
But having reached the last eight six months ago before a heartbreaking late defeat to perennial rivals Leicester at the Walkers Stadium, Meehan is looking for improvement as Bath go in search of their second European trophy in his tenure following their 2008 Challenge Cup success.
"We certainly haven't sat down as a group and discussed what we're trying to achieve but, having said that, we were so disappointed in our exit, and in the loss in Toulouse, that we feel that we can demonstrate that we're a little bit of a better side and can go further in the competition," added Meehan.
"A lot of people have spoken about closing games out and, with the law changes between last season and this, it's probably a little bit simpler to do that now. It won't come as any surprise to people that these are the sorts of areas that we've worked on and we certainly hope that we'll be better at it."
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.