Bath bank on Barkley to secure European advance

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The Independent Online

It would be stretching a point to claim that the outcome of Bath's curious season hangs on their Heineken Cup game in the barely breachable fortress of Stade Pierre Rajon tonight, but they would accept the offer of a victory over Bourgoin in the way a starving man might clutch at a hunk of bread. The West Countrymen cannot qualify for next season's competition through the usual route of the Premiership - if they carry on as they are in bread-and-butter land, they can kiss goodbye to their place in that tournament too - so they need to squeeze everything they can from their European campaign.

Bourgoin are their usual hotchpotch, but they have not lost in the Lyonnais all season. Bath are the opposite: strong in Europe, desperate in England. A win of any description, even one as narrow as their six-point success against a largely uninterested Bourgoin this time last year, would wrap up the pool.

As a means to this end, the head coach Brian Ashton and his Australian sidekicks have made 10 changes to the side that lost at Leeds last weekend. Olly Barkley, the most potent outside-half at the club, will perform the role tonight, having been shifted from inside centre. David Flatman, the former England prop, starts in the front row for the first time in the best part of two injury-wrecked years.

Leeds have named the one-time rugby league international Daryl Powell as the new coach of their first team. Powell, who has extensive experience of top-level coaching in the 13-man game, will work alongside the long-serving director of rugby Phil Davies, who reacted to a calamitous start to the season by participating fully in a process designed to identify weaknesses in the back-room structure and make the necessary changes.

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