RUGBY UNION : No place like away for Bath

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There being no neutral venues at the semi-final stage of the Pilkington Cup, you might think the clich about having a home draw - against anyone - would universally apply. Not to Bath, it doesn't.

Having said that, the double-holders could have been excused a groan of disbelief as well as a sigh of pleasure when Dennis Easby, the Rugby Football Union president, pulled them out of the hat away to Harlequins on April Fool's Day.

Bath have been cup-winners eight times in 11 seasons, and the groan comes from the fact that in every one of their previous semis they have been drawn away. The sigh comes because they have won all eight and, being as superstitious as the next sportsmen, would be loath to tempt fate by playing at The Rec.

The winners at The Stoop will tackle the winners of Leicester v Wasps, Bath and Leicester having been conveniently kept apart yesterday so that perhaps they can fill Twickenham on 6 May. Convenient, that is, for the coffers of the RFU, but highly inconvenient for the England management in its World Cup preparations.

If Bath and Leicester win, which they are favourites to do, as many as 14 of England's South Africa-bound squad could be in final, or even terminal, action only 11 days before they leave. In the old days, Welsh players used to absent themselves from their cup final before Lions tours, but there is no chance of a similar English sacrifice.

Bath's visit to The Stoop repeats last season's semi-final, which produced one of the all-time cup epics snatched by Bath in injury time. Quins, however, are not the side they were even one year ago, and the distraction of their protracted fight against relegation is likely to suit Bath very well.

Wasps would have the look of a cup-winning side if they had been drawn in London rather than Welford Road. But their Pilkington campaign has been characterised by far-flung peregrinations - Newcastle, Liverpool and Exeter - so the East Midlands will be but a short hop.

Moseley, languishing in the Second Division, have appointed Barrie Corless to coach their backs - an appointment expected to be the preliminary to Corless's becoming full-time coaching director at the club he represented with distinction.

This is the new managerial merry-go-round. Corless, formerly the successful coaching director at Northampton, "parted company" (as it was euphemis- tically put) with Gloucester last week, before Moseley got rid of their own club professional, Alex Keay, at the weekend.

PILKINGTON CUP Semi-finals: Leicester v Wasps; Harlequins v Bath. To be played 1 April.

Alan Watkins, page 30