The performance of the Bath backs must have gladdened Rowell's heart. It nevertheless gives him two problems

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The Independent Online
Not since South Africa annihilated Swansea at St Helen's a year ago have I seen such a display of attacking rugby as Bath gave when they defeated Bristol at the Rec on Saturday. Indeed, if the match had been allowed to go on for another 10 minutes (the excellent referee, Brian Campsall, understandably blew up precisely on time, without allowing for second-half injuries) I have little doubt that Bath would have emulated the South Africans and put up over 70 points.

Of the two games, Saturday's was the more satisfying. Bristol are not a bad side and were not so on the day. They were simply confronted by a much better side. Jack Rowell was there to see the club he had formerly coached triumph, and to draw the appropriate conclusions. Let me assist him in his task.

Graham Dawe may be older than Brian Moore but is Moore's equal as a hooker and in loose play. His tight head, Victor Ubogu, is the perpetual bad- boy of international and club rugby alike. He is said to be "casual" in his approach to the game. I do not know whether this is so or not. What I do know is that, once such a reputation has been acquired - whether in rugby or in gentler fields of endeavour - it is difficult to shake off. But there was nothing casual about Ubogu's display. In particular, he appeared quite comfortable against Bristol's loose head, Alan Sharp, who had been puffed in advance as the visiting team's not-so-secret weapon.

We all know about Nigel Redman. He is the player that all the other players (at any rate, the other forwards) pencil first into any side, from Bath to the Lions. He did nothing to detract from his reputation.

But why is no one pushing Martin Haag for a place in the England side? He has a curious build for one in his position, with powerful legs and a relatively narrow upper body, a bit like Jonah Lomu. Maybe, on account of these characteristics, he manages not only to do his work in the lineout but to pop up in all sorts of unexpected places in open play. And he has good hands - better hands, certainly, than Ben Clarke, though that is not saying much. However, I do not want to cast a sour note on the proceedings, especially as Clarke turned up mysteriously on the left wing to score a try.

Now that John Hall has retired from the No 6 position - though Bath, for some curious reason of their own, number the blind-side flanker No 7 and the open side No 6 - Steve Ojomoh can claim a regular place: unless, that is, Bath choose to move Clarke to No 6 in order to bring in Eric Peters.

But they are surely not going to mess Andy Robinson about any more. On Saturday he was everywhere, and had a hand in most of Bath's tries. In his autobiography (reviewed here last week), Moore wrote that Robinson was the superior of Neil Back who had, in Moore's opinion, been the beneficiary of a press campaign. The two players are commonly linked because Robinson is 5ft 9in and Back 5ft 10, the latter having puzzlingly grown an inch in the past couple of years.

The truth is, however, that in his two international appearances Back has not performed as he has with Leicester or the Barbarians. This may have less to do with his height than with his temperament. My guess is, however, that Rowell will still go for the younger and taller Rory Jenkins of Harlequins in preference to Robinson - even though Paul Turner apparently made a monkey of Jenkins in the Sale match.

The performance of the Bath backs must have gladdened Rowell's heart. It nevertheless gives him two problems. One is whether to present Rob Andrew with his gold watch -he deserves a silver tea set as well - and install Mike Catt at outside-half with Jon Callard at full-back. It was not a fair comparison between Callard and Bristol's Paul Hull, owing to Bath's superiority in other areas. Hull has been unlucky. But then so has Callard, who did enough to show his attacking potential.

Rowell's other problem is whether to drop Will Carling and go for the Bath couple, Phil de Glanville and Jeremy Guscott, who on Saturday was accelerating like a French TGV. The trouble is that, if he did this, it would look as if Carling was being punished for indiscretions which had nothing whatever to do with rugby. Still, lucky Bath, lucky Rowell, lucky England.

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