If bath had injury problems during the World Cup, they have a casualty ward full of crocks as they enter the second round first leg of the Parker Pen Challenge Cup at Colomiers tomorrow.
So bad is the injury crisis among the backs - even with their England players back in the squad - that their head coach, John Connolly, has been forced to pick two players out of position. The Scotland wing Simon Danielli and the scrum-half Ross Blake have been undergoing crash courses in full-back and wing, respectively.
For Danielli it is not so bad, as he explained. "I have not played in the position since school, but as a back three player you have to know the positional play, and Matt Perry and Iain Balshaw have been giving me plenty of advice." But it is a different matter for the Scotland Under-21 scrum-half. Blake's Eleven, as he has now been dubbed, finds himself saddled with the task of marking the France Sevens specialist Farid Sid. "Ross is getting into the wing mentality and has worked extremely hard this week on his positional play," Connolly said. "I am sure that he will enjoy the experience."
Bath's captain, Danny Grewcock, knew his side had a hard enough match without the enforced reshuffle. "Colomiers pose a huge threat. We are expecting a very tough game. They've beaten Montferrand away and have also recorded a win over local rivals Toulouse in the French Championship."
Harlequins expect a tough match at Montauban today and their chief executive, Mark Evans, having watched the French side closely, has made five changes to the side which beat Newcastle last weekend, four of them up front.
England's Jason Leonard makes his first start since the World Cup at loosehead, while Laurent Gomez, Roy Winters, Karl Rudzki and Ace Tiatia are all restored to the pack. Paul Burke returns at fly-half after an elbow injury to Andy Dunne.
Newcastle, who entertain Montferrand tomorrow, are still without their England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, while Ben Gollings takes over from the wing Michael Stephenson, who dislocated his elbow last weekend.
Saracens will fancy their chances of building a substantial first-leg lead over the Celtic League strugglers Glasgow, despite being without the England flanker Richard Hill (nose operation). They have also lost Adryan Wynnan, who has a fractured sternum, but they look to have too much power up front and pace out wide for Glasgow.
At the Madejski Stadium, London Irish tackle Narbonne, the French side they lost narrowly to in a pre-season friendly. The prop Rob Hardwick returns to the Irish starting line-up having recovered from a knee injury and their captain Ryan Strudwick has shown no ill-effects from a damaged shoulder.Reuse content