Acid test for injury-hit Bath after Irish debacle

 

They are third from bottom of the Premiership, they have just been reduced to 50-odd points' worth of dust by the reigning Heineken Cup champions – their worst defeat, by a mile, in 14 years of European competition – and their second team have won nothing, not even a losing bonus point, all season. One way or another, Bath are in a bad place, as two senior players, the Springbok scrum-half Michael Claassens and the England prop David Wilson, conceded yesterday. Claassens described last weekend's spanking by Leinster in Dublin as "embarrassing", while Wilson settled for "unacceptable".

On Christmas Eve, the West Countrymen travel to Northampton for a league game of considerable significance. This is bad news for two reasons: first, they lost 31-10 the last time they visited Franklins Gardens (and were lucky to get 10); secondly, this weekend's fixture is the only Premiership game of the day, and will therefore attract a big television audience. The last thing Bath need just at the moment is more people watching them than is absolutely necessary.

"It doesn't help when you have 16 people on the injury list," argued Martin Haag, who played in some outstanding Bath sides in the 1990s and now carries a heavy burden of responsibility as forwards coach. "When you have only 24 players fit and you have to go to Dublin to play as good a side as Leinster... well, it has a bearing on events. But I'm not trying to make out that last weekend's performance wasn't disappointing. The worst aspect was that our defence, which has been superb all year, was the thing that let us down. Of the seven tries they put past us, three or four were due to missed tackles.

"We don't think we're a million miles away: if we were getting things wrong as a coaching team, the players would soon let us know about it. We talk constantly here about commitment, trust and excellence. I can't fault the commitment from the squad and I know they have tremendous trust, both in each other and in what we're trying to achieve here."

That left the "excellence" bit. Was there much evidence of that about the place? Haag, a lock forward who was honest as the day was long during his playing career, could not, hand on heart, claim it was there in abundance just at the moment.

When Bruce Craig, a multi-millionaire who made his pile in France and still lives there, bought Bath from Andrew Brownsword a couple of seasons back, many assumed he would restore the club to its former grandeur in double-quick time. The players may have a country mansion for a training headquarters as a result of Craig's investment, and they may have a director of rugby as celebrated as Sir Ian McGeechan to oversee their efforts there. But baronial splendour does not a great side make. England discovered the truth of that under Martin Johnson, and Bath are learning the same lesson.

"There's this perception that we have pots of money and world-class training facilities, and while I admit we're very lucky in some respects, it's absolutely not the case that we're pampered," said Haag. "It's the people who go out there on the field who make a club and anyway, there's still a salary cap in force, to which we're sticking. Are we spending £4m over the top? No we're not."

Given that Bath are more fortunate than most in terms of financial backing, is it therefore the case that the salary cap will have to go – or at least be raised substantially – if English clubs are to compete with the French and Irish at Heineken Cup level? "I think that's probably so," Haag replied. "If we want to be really competitive, it would help to have another six quality players available to us as and when we need them."

Talking of salary caps, the four Welsh regions – Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets – have just come up with one, agreeing a £3.5m spending limit on their senior squads in recognition of the worsening economic climate. A number of leading players, including the World Cup forwards Adam Jones and Luke Charteris, are already being linked with moves abroad next season, and more may follow.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution