Club Rugby Union: Fleck straight into action for leaders Bath
Saturday 01 November 2003
While Leicester chuck loan signing Stewart Campbell in at the deep end against Bath today, the West Country side have decided to throw their latest acquisition, Robbie Fleck, to the Tigers.
Fleck, fresh from completing his Currie Cup commitments with Super 12 side Stormers, hit English soil running, appearing at his first training session only a couple of hours after his flight landed on Wednesday. With four backs injured, it is little surprise that Bath have immediately selected the South African centre. As their director of rugby, Jack Rowell, explained: "To say that this is a timely arrival would be a huge understatement. We have five backs away at the World Cup and have a further injury fix with those who are here, so to have a player of Robbie's calibre coming into the side is a massive boost."
Meanwhile, Campbell, who won the last of his 18 Scotland caps in 1998, was snapped up from Leeds by an increasingly desperate-looking Leicester as cover for the second row earlier this week. The Leicester director of rugby, Dean Richards, said: "It's a tough time for us, but we always envisaged that. We're just disappointed that we've lost four on the trot. That's the most galling thing. Now we plan to break that sequence."
Richards has also reshuffled his back line, a move which sees the return of Ramiro Pez, who was surprisingly omitted from Italy's World Cup squad, at fly-half, with Austin Healey moving out to the wing to accommodate him.
Both sides will be confronted by a record crowd at the Recreation Ground, whose capacity has been increased from 8,200 to 9,980. The Premiership leaders have not beaten the Tigers in the competition since April 1999, a run of nine straight defeats. Both sides also lost last weekend, Bath's first of the current campaign, Leicester for an unprecedented fourth time on the trot. Nevertheless, as Bath's head coach, John Connolly, said: "Six out of seven is a tremendous start to the season."
There promises to be another hard-fought match at Northampton where Saints entertain second-placed Gloucester, who are rumbling into form with three consecutive wins behind them.
Saints' confidence will be high following their victory over Leicester at Welford Road last week - their second successive win in the Tigers' den. Consequently, the Northampton head coach, Wayne Smith, has made just one change, dropping Mark Tucker to the bench and bringing in Chris Hyndman.
The Cherry and Whites director of rugby, Nigel Melville, brings in Peter Buxton at No 8 for his first start of the current campaign as well as giving loose-head prop Nick Wood only his second start of the season.
Wood comes in for Paul Johnstone, who has been ruled out because of a shoulder injury picked up last week, while in the second row Adam Eustace gets a start with Mark Cornwell relegated to the bench.
Struggling Saracens have an awkward trip to bottom-placed Rotherham. The Titans have lost all seven of their matches so far, but are likely to regard their out-of-form visitors as ripe for the taking.
The Canada scrum-half, Morgan Williams, is expected to return from the World Cup in time to take his place on the Saracens' bench, where academy hooker 18-year-old Stuart Philpott also finds himself. Saracens have lost the services of their World Cup stop-gap centre Mark Bartholomeusz to a shoulder injury which will keep him on the sidelines for six weeks. Paul Bailey steps into the centre alongside the potent Ben Johnston.
Wasps' director of rugby, Warren Gatland, has named an unchanged team for the first time this season for tomorrow's match against Newcastle at High Wycombe. The only difference is on the bench where Rob Howley returns after missing out last week because of a back strain.
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