Bath benefit from French twist

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When Bath venture into the unfamiliar territory of rugby league at Maine Road tonight, they will at least have the benefit of a native guide in their squad, writes Dave Hadfield.

Their reserve hooker, Gary French, is not only a St Helens lad who grew up watching and playing the 13-a-side game - he is also the son of the "Voice of Rugby League", Ray French, who will be commentating on the game against Wigan for Sportsnight.

"They take off his commentaries a bit for my benefit at Bath," says his 27-year-old offspring. "But nobody can mimic him as well as me."

Sadly for French Jnr, he damaged a calf muscle in the match against Sale that won the Courage League for Bath and he is unlikely to be fit in time to play tonight. He has, however, given his team-mates a good idea of what to expect when Wigan get at them under league rules this evening.

"I've been telling them how important it is to get back your 10 metres and keep a straight defensive line. If we don't do that, Wigan will massacre us."

French has also been able to bring in Clive Griffiths, the Welsh international rugby league coach who is in charge of the new league outfit based at Aberavon, to give Bath some grounding in a largely unfamiliar game.

Just as his calf is likely to stop French filling the crucial role of hooker and acting half-back, injuries are likely to prevent Jeremy Guscott and Ben Clarke from playing for Bath at Maine Road tonight.

The lack of time to really get to grips with the demands of league means that French is making no rash predictions about the game, but the union return at Twickenham on 25 May is a different matter, he says, and he has money on the outcome of that to prove it.

"There is no way that Wigan can win at rugby union," he promises. "Besides, I've never lost a bet against my dad. He's such an argumentative old so- and-so that I can wind him up to bet on anything and I've won a fortune from him over the years."