Jonathan Davies: Memo to Bath - forget you are English and you have a great chance

When you've Contepomi you don't need the tactics board
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The Independent Online

As England's only representatives in the Heineken Cup semi-finals next weekend, Bath have a big flag-flying responsibility against Biarritz - and the less they play like an English club the better will be their chances.

In their quarter-final tie against Leicester, Bath took part in a dour encounter which accurately highlighted what is bad about English rugby at the moment. Safety first, safety second; keep it tight, make it a kicking competition. Both sides seemed more motivated by the fear of losing than they were fired by the prospect of winning. The result was very little evidence of creativity and even less sign of genuine attacking rugby. It's the curse of the Guinness Premiership. I suppose if you were a supporter of either side the closeness of the score would have made it enthralling, but general rugby fans would have seen nothing to excite them.

If Bath pursue the same cautious approach against Biarritz on Saturday they will almost certainly be beaten. Despite having powerful ball-carriers such as Danny Grewcock and Steve Borthwick, they will not win the forwards battle and are likely to come second in the kicking game too, because their opponents are stronger in those departments. Chris Malone is a good kicker but so is Dimitri Yachvili, who has the benefit of the excellent inside-centre Damien Traille as his side-kick.

I have watched Biarritz in the French league and they can play a bit. But when it comes to the Heineken Cup they tend to go back to basics and keep it vice-like tight. When Sale played them in the quarter-finals they made the mistake I hope Bath don't make. They tried to match the French side at the negative stuff and never looked like winning.

With less predictability and more adventure in their play I am sure Sale would have done better. As a one-off, cup rugby has to be attacked with courage and confidence, and I have seen no better advertisement for that attitude than Leinster.

When they went to Toulouse in the quarter-finals they took a refreshingly daring mood with them and won what was a fantastic game. I know that they have the backs to support that style but they also have the bravery to apply it when it counts.

If Bath take the hint and give themselves a chance they could go close. Certainly they have nothing to lose if they go out there with a willingness to make the most of any attacking opportunities that come their way. They have to be prepared to throw something different into the mix, to put their opponents on the back foot and disturb their gameplan.

There were those who found last weekend's Powergen Cup final a bit boring and something of a disappointment. I believe the poor weather and the disruption from injuries had much to do with this.

Although the game was not great the occasion was good, and with 55,000 at Twickenham you can say this new competition was a success.

Inevitably, it will be compared with the Heineken Cup, but the spirit it was played in was promising enough. The early stages suffered a little because of the time of year that they were played, but I thought the semi-finals were very good value, because each the four sides were willing to play exciting stuff.

It is not difficult to be sucked into the slow, static and confrontational style if that is what everyone else is doing. But it does limit your horizons, and you see that being reflected in the England international team.

Of course, you have to get the basics right and base your game around a proper structure, but not to the extent that you allow your defensive instincts to control the game.

We can be certain that Leinster will be giving a repeat performance of the method that undid Toulouse in the quarter-finals. They know that to allow Munster to dictate the shape of the game would be fatal. They don't want to be drawn into the close-quarters battle that Munster will want.

When you have players such as Felipe Contepomi and Brian O'Driscoll to let loose you don't have to spend long at the tactics board.

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