Rugby Union: Bath's travelling circus heads for The Stoop

THANKS TO John le Carre, the nerve-centre of Britain's espionage community will forever be known as "The Circus". There are clear parallels here with Bath Rugby Club, not simply because the workforce have performed like clowns in their pre-season friendlies, but because the coaches are now so secretive about who will be playing, and where, that they are in danger of making George Smiley resemble Max Clifford. And, like all closed societies, they are leaking information by the gallon.

Andy Robinson, the head coach, has demanded a vow of silence from his charges; a fairly disconcerting development given that the opening weekend of the Premiership campaign seems just a little early for rampant paranoia. But plenty of whispers are circulating about Bath's line-up at Harlequins this afternoon, the most interesting of which concerns a possible return to front-line duty, perhaps as captain, for Robinson's back-room assistant Jon Callard.

The former England full-back, now 33 and counting, made only three Premiership starts last season, although he Zimmer-framed his way off the bench on two further occasions. Yet Bath seem strangely reluctant to play the lightning-quick youngster Iain Balshaw in his favourite position until Matt Perry, the undisputed first choice at the Recreation Ground, returns from World Cup business with England. According to club sources, Balshaw's immediate future lies on the right wing.

That may change if either of two Scottish wings, Torquil Mathewson of Glasgow Hawks and Steven Reed of Currie, cut the mustard in the West Country. Both have interested Robinson for some time and were due in Bath for a trial this week. Mathewson, in particular, may fancy a move south after failing to win a professional contract with the Glasgow Caledonians super- district side.

Harlequins, who registered a first ever league victory at the Recreation Ground on a highly-charged afternoon last May, were nowhere near as coy about their team selection yesterday. Injury has cost them the services of their new flanker from Sale, Pat Sanderson, but Brendon Daniel makes his Stoop debut on the left wing after being released by Saracens last season. There is also a sentimental return to the shop window for David Pears, who went from England outside-half to midfield dogsbody at Wharfedale following a spate of fitness problems, and is now keen to resurrect a once promising career.

There are changes up front, too, where Kevin Nepia, a New Zealand front- rower directly descended from the great Maori full-back of the 1920s, George Nepia, makes his Allied Dunbar debut. Steve White-Cooper, sufficiently impressive towards the end of last season to save himself from the dole queue, joins the mountainous former Wallaby Garrick Morgan in the second row, while Zinzan Brooke and Chris Sheasby feature among the breakaways.

Gloucester welcome back their impressive young England loose-head prop Trevor Woodman for this afternoon's route-one confrontation with Newcastle - a highly physical curtain-raiser if ever there was one. There is no place for Richie Tombs, though. The been-there-and-seen-it-all Australian centre, so often lauded as the "conscience" of the Gloucester team, loses out to a new midfield combination featuring Chris Yates and Joe Ewens, recent arrivals from Sale and Bedford respectively.

Those thirsting for a glimpse of some World Cup bloodstock will be able to watch Doddie Weir go through his paces at Kingsholm. The Scotland lock has played so little rugby since breaking an ankle during the Five Nations victory over Wales at Murrayfield last February - 15 minutes worth, to be precise - that Jim Telfer, his national coach, has agreed to release him to Newcastle for a one-off romp against Gloucester. As expected, Rob Andrew fills in for the absent Jonny Wilkinson at outside-half.

Northampton have named two international props, Garry Pagel and Matti Stewart, in their 22-man squad for today's home derby with Leicester, the reigning champions. In common with their great rivals, the Tigers are refusing to be too specific about their starting XV, revealing only that three newcomers - the South African prop Ken Fourie, the England World Students Cup flanker Benedict Kay and the former Saracens lock Danny Zaltzman, now on loan from Bedford - are in their travelling party.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home