Rugby Union: Old-timer Probyn in for a dip at Bath: Steve Bale on today's matches in the Courage Clubs' Championship

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The Independent Online
IT IS all very well Wasps saying they want to run the ball from everywhere - and even that good intention is in doubt after their insipid performance in defeat by Leicester last Saturday - but unless you get the thing in the first place there is nothing to run.

So welcome back, at a ripe 37, England's most-capped prop. Jeff Probyn, three second-team games to the good, steps back into the London club's front row at Bath this afternoon with the obvious intention that he stabilise an unsteady scrummage.

At the same time, Probyn, who was still an England player 18 months ago, purports to be greatly enthused by Wasps' gadabout style. 'I'm looking forward to running all over the pitch,' he said. If we are to believe Rob Smith, the Wasps coach, this is guaranteed: 'We will go back to running the ball right from the start. We've tried the orthodox methods and come off second-best.'

Smith and his captain, Dean Ryan, an unwilling spectator last week, were perplexed at the inhibition of their team's tactics against the Tigers, but at least Ryan is fit again to insist that the reversion is made against the champions. By winning today, Bath would break their own First Division record of 15 successive wins. Big deal. 'The only incentives we need are winning the next match and playing well,' Brian Ashton, the coach, said.

This could be ranked with the best managerial cliches were it not for his side's ability to maintain their extraordinary standards week after week after week. Jack Rowell, the England manager, will be in attendance to see how well his dearly beloved former club are getting by without him.

The bravura exhibitions with which Wasps overwhelmed Gloucester and Harlequins seem like ancient history, especially after the return to mundane rugby in the Leicester match. 'Kicking and safety are reasons why we haven't challenged for cup and league more frequently,' Smith said.

Bath and Leicester lead the league with the First Division's only 100 per cent records from four games, Bath's points-difference superiority being 15. Leicester would have fancied their chances of substantially reducing this deficit against West Hartlepool before hearing that West had beaten Wasps a fortnight ago.

Gloucester, too, welcome back a boy of the old brigade. Mike Teague, whose final England appearance was in the same Dublin defeat as Probyn's, reappears for his first club and first love at Sale after two seasons with Moseley. Teague, though, is a mere stripling: today is his 35th birthday.

Bristol will continue to head the chasing pack by beating Orrell, while Northampton are striving to get off the mark at the fifth attempt against the impossibly unpredictable Harlequins.

In Scotland, the Hastings brothers - sorry, Watsonians - put their lead on the line at Edinburgh Accies, and in Wales the First and Second Divisions have the day off while the Wales squad practise for Wednesday's World Cup ranking match against Italy in Cardiff.

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