Bath give Edwards cold shoulder over frozen field

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The weather and the mood may thaw in the three weeks before Bath and Wasps are likely to play yesterday's postponed Premiership match, but relations between the clubs were as frosty as parts of the Recreation Ground pitch yesterday. Wasps' head coach, Shaun Edwards, dismissed the hosts' accusation that he had exerted undue pressure on the French referee, Romain Poite, to call the match off. Bath's chief executive, Bob Calleja, bemoaned at least £20,000 in costs to the club after the ground staff's extensive efforts to get the game on came to nothing.

"The safety of my players has got to the biggest consideration," said Edwards, whose side have hit form with five wins in six matches. Poite – who had past and present English Test referees, Ed Morrison and Chris White, giving advice – called it off 90 minutes before the scheduled 2.45pm kick-off, Sky pulled the plug on their live TV coverage and early arrivals among the anticipated 10,600 capacity crowd had a choice between the clubhouse bar and going home.

Wasps had four Test forwards missing and the England back-rower James Haskell struggling to be fit due to a stomach bug, but the reconvening on the Premiership's designated free Saturday, 31 January, could hurt the champions more than Bath. It would rule out those players picked for England's 22 against Italy the following week. Both sides would be depleted.

For Edwards's Bath counterpart, Steve Meehan, it was a mixed blessing. The players had a gentle session in the gym at Bath University instead of a tough match before two crucial Heineken Cup fixtures, away to the Newport-Gwent Dragons next Sunday and against Toulouse here the following weekend.

"We'll go to Newport a bit fresher, that's for sure," said Meehan. On the other hand, the giant wing Matt Banahan missed out on a final chance, in direct opposition to Wasps' Paul Sackey, to impress the England manager, Martin Johnson, before Wednesday's squad announcement for the Six Nations' Championship.

"I would be surprised if Matt doesn't make the senior squad," said Meehan, who has overseen Banahan's flowering from a 6ft 7in, 18st 1lb second-row into a wing with a sidestep and a pass to go with his speed and size. "He didn't play in our previous game, against Leicester, so England have to base their decision on previous displays, and I believe he's done enough.

"I'd take a long-term view, get him in that squad and see how he develops. He's worked a lot on his footwork, on his in-and-away swerve, and he's not just a battering ram. He did have some hamstring issues, so he's had to work on his core strength and he's had to build himself into the player he is. He's not unique but he's almost on his own currently."

Bath's 18-16 defeat in Toulouse in October was a curate's egg; seconds away from victory, they naïvely allowed the French side one more play and a winning penalty. "We've shown enough to scare them," said Meehan. "The way I look at it is that if we win both these matches coming up, we go through, simple as that."

Comments