Revenge in the air

Chris Hewett talks to Steve Ojomoh about the heavy burden Bath bear
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The Independent Online
Steve Ojomoh has not been his usual genial self over the last 10 days or so and his mood is unlikely to improve much before next weekend.

Ever since he and his Bath club-mates suffered the indignity of losing by 80 points to Wigan in a one-sided game of rugby league - "we weren't beaten, we were humiliated," he growls - the England loose-forward has been in revenge mode.

Bath take on Wigan again on Saturday, this time under Union rules at Twickenham. While the unique occasion will mark the end of a long campaign of unrelenting graft for the double champions of the 15-man code, the treatment dished out to them at Maine Road has hurt the West Countrymen so badly that the old siege mentality is back in full flood. It is, says Ojomoh, "pay-back time".

"The match can't come quickly enough as far as I am concerned," the Nigerian- born flanker added. "I took what happened to us in the first game very personally; I don't like defeat on any scale, let alone an 80-pointer. The rest of the Bath players feel the same. We may have won both League and Cup this season, but because of what happened in Manchester, we still have a point to prove.

"It goes further than Bath. The whole of rugby union is looking to us to put Wigan in their place and if anyone expects us to go out there next Saturday and play entertaining stuff for the sake of appearances, they must be mad. There is a job to be done and if we have our way we'll get it wrapped up by half-time and then think about entertainment."

Ojomoh is fully aware that along with his fellow wing- forward Andy Robinson, he will be operating in areas Wigan know next to nothing about - ball-winning on the floor, wide supporting runs, the hunting down of half-backs in open field, the "body clearing" techniques at attacking rucks. The two Bath breakaways will expect to clean up in those disciplines and make Twickenham a claustrophobic hell for extravagantly gifted free spirits like Henry Paul, Martin Offiah and Jason Robinson.

"While the Wigan players are quite small by union standards, they are very strong in the upper body and they made that tell against us in the league game. But they won't like it in the scrums and line-outs, and they definitely won't like it on the floor. I don't care how talented a side is with ball in hand, they can't make much headway if they are constantly being hit by quick ruck after quick ruck.

"We had to get used to an alien game very quickly in Manchester; the ball was in play for longer than we were used to and, of course, the tackling was relentless. Wigan were exceptionally fit, but it was a different type of fitness. Now we are back doing the things we've trained specifically to do for as long as we have been playing, and that makes a big difference.'

For all his fighting talk, Ojomoh left Maine Road with his long-standing respect for the 13-man game reinforced. Back in the early Nineties, when he was working his way towards the first of his 11 caps, the former decathlete was seen as league material and admits a move might have been on the cards had not union professionalised itself after last year's World Cup.

"I always suspected that league was a hard game, but you don't get the full message until you go out there and taste it for real. Do I still fancy league? No, not any longer. We are getting paid in union now, and as it's an easier game physically than league, it doesn't make much sense to put your body on the line up North when you can earn a good living playing the game you know best."