Bath basked in a mood of contented celebration at passing the 11-match midpoint of the Premiership regular season in a solid second place after Saturday’s four-try, 31-14 win over Exeter. It led some high up in the Rec club’s management to ponder privately whether England should pick Bath’s backs en masse. Kyle Eastmond, the inside centre who with his fly-half George Ford formed the focal point of the blue, black and white attack, was more measured.
Asked whether he would like to form the same partnership at international level Eastmond said: “That’s not for me to decide. I am here to play the best I can when I’m given the opportunity, whether it’s for Bath or anyone else. It’s good that Bath allow me to play my natural game. I’m a ball-playing rugby player. I’m not a runner, I like to play with the ball in hand. George knows when I want the ball and when I don’t. It does help when you’ve got a forward pack like we’ve got.”
Ford and Eastmond have each made six appearances for England since Eastmond’s debut in June 2013 but spent only 15 minutes on a Test field together, against South Africa last month. Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees and Brad Barritt have all laid claim to the England No 12 jersey. Beguiling as it was to watch Bath on the run in the winter sun, Exeter in the league is a different challenge to the Six Nations Championship and World Cup to come. Such was the latitude Bath afforded to Exeter that Ford was regularly backpedalling to deal with his opposite number Gareth Steenson’s line breaks and Henry Slade, who has few English peers for his silky running and line-kicking.
One Bath coach predicted “World War Three” away to Leicester next Sunday – the most recent meeting finished an embarrassingly one-sided 45-0 to Bath in September – and the head coach, Mike Ford, said: “We’ve got threats all over the park: the backs, the scrum, the driving maul. We’re in a good place but we’re not going to get carried away.”Reuse content