De Glanville ready for the raw meat

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The Independent Online
The champions, Bath, unusually vulnerable after an accident-prone autumn, may be struggling to deliver two half-decent performances in a row but at least they can sing a good game. When Phil de Glanville, the England captain, leads out his side for this afternoon's momentous tussle with the league leaders, Harlequins, the capacity Recreation Ground crowd will be treated to an extended re-mix rap version of the local heros' brand new smash hit single, "Push 'Em Back".

The fact that the word "rap" is dangerously close to many Bath supporters' description of the first half of the season did not prevent those well- known crooners Jon Sleightholme, Steve Ojomoh and Henry Paul exercising their vocal chords in a recording studio near the city earlier this week. In Sleightholme's case, it was the only exercise available; the England wing misses first- team action again today as Bath keep faith with Jason Robinson.

As De Glanville readily concedes, defeat against Quins would effectively relieve the West Countrymen of their title. "It's another huge game for us and if we lose, it will probably be all over as far as the league is concerned," he said yesterday. "We've got to get ourselves up for this one, no question."

Bath throw two overseas recruits in at the deep end for league debuts. Frederico Mendez, the Argentinian hooker, can be expected to cope relatively comfortably with the fire and fury - his personal confrontation with Keith Wood, the in-form Irishman, should be a highlight - but it is safe to say that Dan Lyle, the American Eagles captain playing out of position in the second row, will never have encountered an atmosphere quite like the one certain to be generated today.

For their part, Quins travel slightly light. Gary Connolly, who has made the transition from league to union more easily than most, has knee trouble while Robbie Paul, his fellow 13-a-sider, has been left on the bench. Will Carling and Peter Mensah pair up in the centre with Paul Challinor at outside-half.

If the raw meat is being served up at The Rec, the sweet trolley is on display at Twickenham. The Australian tourists run down the curtain on their Celtic Slam by taking on the Barbarians in a traditional farewell fixture and with David Campese donning a Wallaby shirt for the last time, there will not be a dry eye in the house.

In typically persuasive fashion, the Barbarians president, Mickey Steele- Bodger, has badgered and chivvied away so effectively that the tourists are faced with a far more competitive contest than they might have expected a fortnight ago. The backbone of the invitation side is made up of League Two players but at least a couple of them, Tony Underwood and Allan Bateman, are close to international recalls and will be eager to catch the eye.

Underwood, the Newcastle wing left for dead by Jonah Lomu in Capetown 18 months ago, is now fully rehabilitated while Bateman, who won four caps for Wales in 1990 before taking the league shilling, has impressed a number of good judges with some capable displays in the Richmond midfield over the last 10 weeks. "We are watching Allan very closely," conceded Terry Cobner, the Welsh director of rugby, this week. "Many observers believe him to be playing better than any centre in the Courage League and it will be interesting to see how he handles the step up against Tim Horan and company."

Horan, who leads the Wallabies in the absence of the injured John Eales, goes in without his sidekick Jason Little - the Queenslander withdrew yesterday with knee trouble, so Daniel Herbert gets another opportunity in the centre. Little's absence hardly makes it easier for the tourists to shed their reputation as a disappointingly functional, forward-based outfit wholly different from the brilliantly inventive sides who played here under Mark Ella and Nick Farr-Jones, but with the 34-year-old Campese certain to be in party mood, there will be no room for restrictive practices today.

The growing penchant for Sunday rugby sees two important English league games held over until tomorrow. Leicester, who must do without the injured lock Matt Poole as well as their Barbarian contingent, face Northampton at Welford Road while Saracens tackle Sale at Enfield in the absence of their great French centre Philippe Sella.


at Twickenham. Kick-off: 3.0 (BBC1)

T Stimpson Newcastle & Eng 15 M Burke New South Wales

N Walker Cardiff & Wales 14 J Roff ACT

A Bateman Richmond & Wales 13 D Herbert Queensland

G Townsend Northampton & Sco 12 T Horan Queensland, capt

T Underwood Newcastle & Eng 11 D Campese New South Wales

R Andrew Newcastle & Eng, capt 10 P Howard ACT

R Howley Cardiff & Wales 9 S Payne New South Wales

N Popplewell Newcastle & Irl 1 D Crowley Queensland

N Hewitt Southland & NZ 2 M Caputo ACT

D Garforth Leicester 3 A Blades New South Wales

C Quinnell Richmond & Wales 4 T Gavin New South Wales

M Bayfield Northampton & Eng 5 D Giffin ACT

D McIntosh Pontypridd 6 O Finegan ACT

S Quinnell Richmond & Wales 8 M Brial New South Wales

N Back Leicester & Eng 7 D Wilson Queensland

Referee: Ed Morrison (Bristol)