Bateman confident of return

Rugby Union
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The Independent Online
Allan Bateman went under the surgeon's knife just nine days ago, but he will resume his international career against France next week. Bateman underwent a cartilage operation, but the former Warrington rugby league professional says he will be fit by the time Wales run out in Paris, seeking their first victory at Parc des Princes since 1975.

Bateman's selection represents arguably the biggest gamble the coach, Kevin Bowring, has taken during his 15-month reign, pairing Bateman with Scott Gibbs again, the powerful midfield partnership that wreaked havoc against Scotland.

Bowring's English counterpart, Jack Rowell, yesterday named an unchanged team to play Ireland in Dublin next week. However, Rowell said he was within a minute of bringing on substitutes during the Calcutta Cup match against Scotland, before the team ran in three tries in five minutes.

"We were thinking of putting on subs towards the end," Rowell said. "But then they gave such an exhilarating exhibition that it would have been strategically wrong to break them up."

The Pilkington Cup champions, Bath, will gamble with an unfamiliar back row line-up when they take on Leicester in tomorrow's delayed sixth-round tie at the Recreation Ground. The decision to play Steve Ojomoh, Eric Peters and Dan Lyle, three international No 8s, as an inter-changeable loose-forward unit deprives the West Countrymen of a specialist open side - a calculated risk given the presence of Neil Back in the Tigers' side.

The Bath selectors have sprung two more surprises in their pack. In the front row, John Mallett replaces Victor Ubogu at tight-head prop in a reversal of the current pecking order; in the second row, there is no place for German Llanes, the Argentinian lock who made his debut against Otago on Tuesday.

Squads, Digest, page 25

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