Bath ready to go to work on day off

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The Independent Online
STEVE BALE

If Bath do to Orrell at Wigan today what Leicester did to the same opponents at the same venue three weeks ago, Leicester's chance of making up in two matches to Bath's one what would then be a points-difference deficit of 80 will have dwindled almost to nothing. Both have 14 wins from a possible 16.

How strangely pleasant to be thus reflecting on the simple playing of the game after a fortnight of multifarious antagonism, in which that which takes place on the pitch has appeared the merest irrelevance. Mind you, if the big clubs stick to their present position, then Bath - or Leicester - will become the very last Courage champions.

Leicester are not involved today, first because this had been intended by the Rugby Football Union as a day off league rugby, and second because they are playing what is grandiosely styled a World XV for the Sanyo Cup at Twickenham tomorrow. "World", in this instance, is more a question of geographical spread than status but, with the Super-12 series taking place in the southern hemisphere, availabilities are strictly limited.

This match has one specifically domestic fascination - the Underwood brothers playing in opposition to each other - but the main underlying point is to help with next season's wages bill. It remains to be seen whether the principle of the English champions' annually playing the world will be accepted, but for now the pounds 50,000 Leicester are receiving from the sponsors is handy pocket-money.

Leicester's intention is to share any other spoils with the rest of the First Division. Something exceeding 20,000 tickets have been sold, a perfectly respectable figure had it not been for Twickenham's 75,000 capacity. The World came to The Stoop for training yesterday with Bob Dwyer, the coach, having proclaimed Leicester's rolling-maul style "an abomination".

The former Wallabies coach is said to be at the head of the queue hoping to succeed the sacked Tony Russ as the Tigers' rugby director. Since being relieved of his Australian position after last year's World Cup, Dwyer has been in Paris coaching Racing Club, who have been in danger of relegation.

Meanwhile, Bath's game at Central Park - where last night they did some homework for the forthcoming double bill with Wigan by watching Bradford Bulls' Super League visit - is of greater significance for Orrell than the result. Fewer than 4,000 turned up for the Leicester match here on 30 March and if the attendance does not exceed 6,000 today it will confirm the feeling four miles away at Edge Hall Road that it would after all be better to develop the existing facility.

Saracens already know they are moving out of Southgate, for Enfield FC, but whether they will by then be in the First Division or in the Second along with the already-relegated West Hartlepool depends on two matches in the West Country against fellow-strugglers, today's at Bristol and next Saturday's at Gloucester.

Garath Archer having graciously consented to turn out despite his imminent return to Newcastle, Bristol have taken the pragmatic course by selecting the England lock. But these days Arwel Thomas, the Wales stand- off, seldom turns out for the club and this time he is "carrying a couple of niggling injuries", according to Alan Davies, Bristol's new coach.

This is a time of unbearable tension at the Memorial Ground as they wait to see who else will leave. Take Thomas: Bristol's brash announcement in February that he had pledged his future to them has been rendered wishful thinking by the player's intention to leave it until the end of the season before making up his mind.

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