Bath hopes of glory dented as Matt Garvey’s season ends early

'He’s not in great shape. When someone like him lands badly there’s always going to be some damage'

Bath, back in the shake-up for major honours after an extended period of also-ran anonymity, resigned themselves some time ago to chasing the glittering prizes without their best player, the Springbok flanker Francois Louw. What the West Countrymen did not expect was another injury setback in the same area of the team, affecting the man many consider to be their second-best player: Matt Garvey.

When Bath take on Northampton at the Recreation Ground tomorrow night – a match they must win at all costs, given the intensity of the competition for places in the Premiership play-off phase – they will do so with a back-row unit very different to that on which they have depended for much of the campaign. Louw, who suffered an ankle injury in March, is not certain to feature again this season, although he is up on his feet and may train next week. Garvey? He seems to be a goner as far as the current campaign is concerned.

The 6ft 6in, 20st signing from London Irish has made a serious impact at The Rec, to the extent that many good judges believe him worthy of a place on this summer’s England tour of All Black country. That seems a long shot now. During last weekend’s Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final victory at Wasps, he landed awkwardly at a line-out, rolled his ankle and ended the afternoon on crutches. If he had set out to mimic Louw, who suffered precisely the same misfortune in precisely the same circumstances, he could not have made a better fist of it.

“He’s not in great shape,” admitted the coach Toby Booth, who also completed a lengthy tour of duty at London Irish before heading for Bath and was instrumental in luring Garvey down the M4. “He’s a big guy and when someone like him lands badly there’s always going to be damage. We don’t know the full extent of it, but it doesn’t look like being a short-term problem. It’s bitterly disappointing because he’s been one of our leading performers throughout the year.”

Booth and his colleagues are not bereft of options: Carl Fearns, an England tourist in 2012 and plenty big enough to make a frank and forthright contribution on the blind-side flank, is back on the gallops after orthopaedic hassles of his own, while the Samoa international Alafoti Fa’osiliva is also on the books. For all that, this is grim news for Bath.

Their remaining fixtures are brutally difficult: they must travel to Harlequins, fierce rivals for a play-off place, in the final round of league matches on Saturday week, and face the powerful Northampton again in the Amlin Cup final on 23 May. And if they make the Premiership last four, their opponents will be either Saracens or… Northampton, yet again.

Life might be a little easier if the likes of Bath could spend more of their own money in ways of their own choosing – principally, by strengthening their squads. That, however, is a luxury largely restricted to the leading French clubs, whose purchasing power is significantly greater and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Details of the salary cap arrangements on the far side of the Channel were confirmed yesterday, with the French Top 14 sides keeping their €10m budgets – around £8.2m in what the Premiership fraternity would call “real money” – despite calls for a cut to more sustainable levels. They will also have power to add through a new arrangement with the national team.

Philippe Saint-André, the France coach, will shortly name a group of 30 players, along the lines of the English “elite player squad”, and each will carry a €100,000 (£82,000) price tag. Toulouse, four-time  European champions, are likely to contribute heavily – the backs Maxime Médard, Yoann Huget, Gaël Fickou and, conceivably, Florian Fritz; the half-back Jean-Marc Doussain; the forwards Yoann Maestri, Yannick Nyanga, Thierry Dusautoir and Louis Picamoles. This will take their budget to around €11m, almost £4m more than the English clubs are permitted to spend, even allowing for the one “marquee” player each Premiership side can employ outside the cap.

“There is still a gap,” acknowledged Mark McCafferty, the chief executive of Premier Rugby, yesterday, “and we’re keen to close it over the coming years. But we don’t have to go for broke on this, especially as the French have seen the value in holding things at their present level for three seasons. We’ve raised our own cap to £5m for next season and with various  add-ons, some teams will be able to spend around £5.7m. It’s our intention to carry on growing our revenues and developing the size of the business, and I’m confident in our ability to do that, especially with the new European competitions coming on stream next season.”

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen