Ruck and Maul: Barkley keeps Bath charge on course at the expense of Harlequins

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The Independent Online

Bath would love to have the Guinness Premiership table redrawn to reflect recent form, having vacuumed up 30 points from a possible 35 in their last seven matches.

It might have been one more, too, in yesterday's 24-13 defeat of Harlequins at The Rec, had Bath managed to add a bonus-point score in the half-hour remaining after Joe Maddock ran in their third try. Olly Barkley's first home appearance for Bath two years after he left for Gloucester – then got injured when he returned – brought him 14 points from a try, three conversions and a penalty. Gloucester are less well placed than Bath in the charge for a play-off place, but their fly-half Nicky Robinson outdid Barkley – the man he replaced at Kingsholm last summer – by scoring all his side's points in a 19-0 win over Leeds Carnegie. It ended Leeds's run of three Premiership wins, which was welcome news for their fellow stragglers. Ninth-placed Newcastle go to Saracens this afternoon while Sale, in 10th, are away to London Irish, where a large crowd is expected for a belated St Patrick's Day celebration.

Get with programme

Reporters settling in to their seats for the France v England match at Stade de France were baffled to flick their match programmes open and find a meagre 16 pages, with the teams listed in the centre spread, a few photos and advertisements, and a single page of editorial written by the French Rugby Federation chairman. The normal glossy number of 84 pages had been withdrawn from sale at the last minute when the FFR got cold feet over an article about England's Riki Flutey which mentioned his brush with the Argentinian law while on tour with the Wellington Academy in 2001. With a print run of around 30,000, that was a couple of hundred thousand Euros down the Seine. The Rugby Football Union have been known to cut critical articles from England programmes but Bill Cotton, the publisher whose company have worked with Twickenham since the 1950s, has never had to pull the whole lot. "Any article goes through at least three pairs of eyes before it gets to press," Cotton told Ruck and Maul. "I've been looking after the Twickenham programme since 1987 and never heard of a mistake like this."

Andrew gets his kicks

You never lose it. Rob Andrew, the RFU elite rugby director and kicker of 398 points in Tests, was mingling with the England players on the touchline after the final whistle in Paris. Though Andrew had at first appeared to be taking defeat on the chin, in a sudden fit of pique he took aim with the trusty right foot – and a water bottle cap whacked reserve flanker Hendre Fourie on the knee.

Umaga plays the joker

A slightly younger old stager, as it were, is back playing. Tana Umaga made his first appearance of the season for Toulon in the 13-9 defeat of Bourgoin on Friday night, a few weeks before returning to New Zealand to become player/assistant coach of Counties Manukau. The 36-year-old Umaga is filling in for wing Christian Loamanu as a "medical joker" – which is someone covering for an injured player, as opposed to a member of the cast of "House". Moneybags Toulon have added Carl Hayman to their ever-expanding galaxy of stars for next season and look well set to welcome the All Black prop into a first-ever tilt at the Heineken Cup after the club's six seasons in the Challenge Cup since 1996.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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