Year of the comeback:`I live for today. Fiction does not play a part': Rugby Union

Jeremy Guscott: The philosopher's approach
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The Independent Online
As drop goals go, it was not in the same class as Rob Andrew's colossal winner against Australia in the 1995 World Cup quarter-final but Jeremy Guscott's effort in Durban earned him a footnote in history.

The Gods were with the Lions. Guscott is not supposed to drop goals, that curious hybrid between a penalty and an act of desperation; he is supposed to deceive defences with sublime pace and guile. But when he found himself in splendid isolation in front of South Africa's posts in the 76th minute he had little choice. "He always seems to be in the right place at the right time when it comes to glory," Matt Dawson, the Lions scrum-half, said of Guscott during the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year programme.

The memory of the kick that clinched the second Test 18-15 and with it the series remains vivid - which is just as well, for Guscott's career has been on hold ever since. He returned from South Africa with a broken arm which was a minor handicap compared to the back injury he incurred while training with Bath in September. He had an operation six weeks ago to remedy a bulging disc in his lower back.

"There have been no complications and the operation was as clean as it could be," Guscott said. "But the rehabilitation is a bit more tricky. Each spine is unique, so to a degree we're into unknown territory. The training is coming along extremely well but I'm not going to put a date on my comeback. As each week goes by the intensity of my programme changes."

On Friday he and Adedayo Adebayo, the Bath and England wing, flew to Lanzarote for a week of warm-weather training. The acid test will be applied early in the New Year when he resumes contact work but all being well he could add to his 48 caps for England in the Five Nations' Championship. Bath like to think that he might be available for the European Cup final with Brive at the end of the month.

"I've been swimming and cycling and doing all sorts of girlie things in the gym," he said. "I've been injured before so I'm not setting any targets." Guscott, who will be 33 in July, missed the 1994 season with a pelvic-groin injury. He is not an avid spectator although he watched Bath play Northampton on Tuesday before hosting a New Year's Eve party at his new home in the city.

The lay-off has given him the opportunity to work on his golf handicap of 12, and to develop his promotional work, not to mention his TV and radio career. He has covered rugby for Radio 5 Live and recently fronted a new series of Gladiators. "It was one of the most nerve-racking things I've ever done. It was very fast and I hardly had time to catch my breath. When they asked me to do it I thought it was a wind-up. At first I felt a little bit like an outsider but then I became a part of the whole team. I was very pleased with it."

Guscott's contract with Bath expires next season, not that he is looking that far ahead. "I suppose I should be a bit more responsible but I don't see the necessity for looking into the future. I'm lucky enough to be blessed with the talents I have and I tend to live for today. Fiction does not play a part in my life. I don't know what's going to happen so why speculate? I'm quite philosophical about everything. I realise how fortunate I am in being given chances that might not have arisen had I not been a rugby player. Rugby can be boring if you are involved in it every day. There's got to be something extra to turn you on."

Guscott regularly enjoys what he describes as "BNOs" - Boys' Nights Out - and it was after one such session in South Africa that he missed a coaching clinic in Soweto, an admission he made in his book on the tour.

Bath, like most clubs in the professional era, are feeling the pinch. "The biggest thing about being a professional sportsman," Guscott said, "is that everything has to run smoothly. Except for natural talent, the only difference between the players is their state of mind. You can't afford to be worrying about what is going on behind the scenes. I don't feel there is going to be a massive financial collapse. Bath are beginning to get their house in order and the owner has made it clear he is in it for the long term. The game will sort itself out."

It didn't look that way when Bath were the subject of a BBC fly-on-the- wall television documentary. "It was quite a reasonable representation of what happened," Guscott said, "although not everybody understood that the makers had some editorial licence. I thought about 30 per cent of it was quite good. The rest was fairly boring."

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