Rugby Union: How best in West have been won over

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The Independent Online
IT WOULD be stretching credulity to believe that after all these years the unholy alliance of Bath, Bristol and Gloucester had sunk their differences on behalf of a hitherto unpopular cause, writes Steve Bale. But something has happened to the South-West, even if no more than a grudging acceptance.

If you do not accept the divisionals, the England selectors will not accept you - and what a change the realisation has made. Since the Divisional Championship was resurrected, the South-West have never won it and did not seem to care too much. Not once until last Saturday's 29-9 win at Kirkstall had they beaten the North.

They had been through coaches - Jack Rowell, Mike Rafter and latterly Keith Richardson - from each of their big three and, no alchemists they, all had found the gold represented by outstanding individuals turned to base metal when they came together as a team.

Yet today, when Stuart Barnes's team meet last Saturday's other winners, London, at Gloucester, they would more or less wrap up the ADT trophy by winning a second championship match for the first time. One cannot imagine Barnes lifting it with the rapture he used to display on receiving the Pilkington Cup for Bath.

So the joke team have somehow become a serious proposition. 'We always had the players, and for them to put it together was long overdue,' Richardson said. 'If we continue to play this way it's going to take a marvellous side to stop us. There has been a marked difference in attitude.'

The other match is last week's losers at Waterloo, the North disrupted by the loss through injury of two important England men, Dewi Morris and Wade Dooley. Morris thereby misses the chance to renew a very old acquaintance - with Richard Angell, the new Midlands outside-half, who was a schoolboy team-mate in Breconshire. Yes, another Welshman.

Though Angell plays in the Second Division for Coventry, the responsibility thrust upon him is to catalyse the accompanying First Division players who disappointed against South Africa and London.

'We have six Northampton or Leicester men in the backs,' said the coach, Peter Rossborough, who also helps coach a team we must now get used to calling England A instead of England B. 'Both clubs play wide, expansive rugby and there is no reason why, with the right direction, the Midlands should not emulate that.'

North of the border, the Scottish Inter-District Championship will be decided between the South and Edinburgh at Melrose, while after last Saturday's joint meeting the league leaders in Wales, Swansea and Cardiff, face less demanding opposition than each other in Newbridge and Aberavon.

The South African Chad Lion- Cachet has been appointed captain of Oxford University. The flank forward, from Pretoria, takes over from Michael Patton, captain in Tuesday's 19-11 University match defeat by Cambridge.