Bath cup hopes on the line
December 10, 1999
Bath face a crunch Anglo-Welsh clash at Swansea tonight that will either keep alive their Heineken Cup hopes or reduce them to European also-rans.
If Bath lose, then only a miracle otherwise known as victory over tournament favourites Toulouse in France next month can effectively prevent early elimination.
It is a make-or-break scenario for the 1998 European champions, who could not defend their title last season when English clubs Bath included staged a mass boycott.
And they go into the Pool 2 encounter with injury concerns surrounding their entire first choice back-row trio of Ben Clarke (ribs), Angus Gardiner (knee strain) and Dan Lyle (shoulder).
Skipper Phil de Glanville is a definite non-starter, courtesy of the fractured cheekbone suffered against Premiership conquerors Wasps last Sunday, while scrum-half Gareth Cooper (ankle) faces a late fitness test.
Bath coach Andy Robinson will not announce his starting line-up until two hours before kick-off, and knows the importance of a match that Swansea also need to win for similar reasons.
"Our defensive alignment during the opening 20 minutes against Wasps was poor, and that is being kind, but once we sorted it out, things improved,'' he said. "The spirit of the team impressed me, and while our young players are not yet the finished article and need time to develop, they are gaining experience all the time."
Swansea again leave former Wales fly half Arwel Thomas on the replacements' bench, and have preferred Rhodri Jones to his more experienced brother Robert as scrum-half.
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin