Blogs & Opinion


Your enemy's closer

League scrap gives derby extra spice, says Miles

Miles Harrison Posted 17th February 2012 view comments

There'll be no love lost at the Rec on Saturday when Bath and Gloucester lock horns in another Premiership battle royal.

The ninth-placed hosts are unbeaten in four matches in all competitions and will be determined to make it two league wins on the spin after last week's 30-24 home win over Newcastle.

Immediately above them in the table sit Gloucester, who held their nerve to edge Northampton in a thriller last time out.

England expects: Sharples is an England player in waiting, says Miles

England expects: Sharples is an England player in waiting, says Miles

But Saturday is about much more than points and places; as Miles Harrison explains, big bragging rights are at stake...

Where does this game stand in terms of rivalries, Miles, and will the two clubs prepare any differently?

MILES REPLIES: In terms of rivalries, well, that's an easy one. This is a match that has meant a great deal for a long time and especially since the rise of Bath back in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Anybody who watched the Rugby Club this week will have seen that. Furthermore, because of the corresponding decline of Bristol as a major force in English rugby, Bath v Gloucester has assumed the status of being 'the' West Country derby. But, in terms of preparing differently, I think times have changed on that one; coaches' and players' preparations are geared to a week in, week out, striving for league points regardless of the opposition. However, where this weekend is a little different for all involved is the atmosphere generated by the supporters. They will give this match that bit extra something as they hope their team can beat their near neighbour. The players who have sampled this before will be ready for that and, for those who haven't, it will be an exciting, new experience.

There was a time when Gloucester could not beat Bath for love nor money, home or away - but those times have changed and there is no doubt that Glaws will feel they have a big chance on Saturday to win at the Rec again.

Miles Harrison
Quotes of the week

LIVE ON SKY SPORTS
Bath v Gloucester

2pm, Sat, Sky Sports HD2
Watch on the move with Sky Go
How to remote record

The form of the likes of Jonny May and Charlie Sharples has been great to watch but Gloucester coach Bryan Redpath wants to see more balance - especially from fullback May. Do you agree with Redpath or is there a danger of heading into what Graham Henry called 'a game based on fear'?

MILES REPLIES: Like us all, I admire what May and Sharples have been doing and, I have to be honest, the absence of May from the England senior squad in this Six Nations Championship, was a surprise. I think May has something special about him and have done for some time. But, it is clear, that his time will come and, when it does, he will need to show the control that Bryan Redpath is talking about. Redpath is not the kind of coach who wants to stamp on flair or, as you put it, play 'a game based on fear' - all he is doing is wanting his men to learn the art of playing at the highest level - and that is being able to make the right decisions at the right times. May and Sharples can be lethal in attack, just ask Toulouse, but they also need to show a consistent maturity in their decision-making. You could argue that Sharples is a little further down the track in this respect whereas May has been moved around the backline from centre to wing to full-back, helping out his team and maybe sacrificing some consistency of performance because of those movements. Stuart Lancaster is perhaps waiting to see more of that consistency before chucking someone like May in at the deep end. But, these two players are England players in waiting and, I would argue, that their involvement should be sooner rather than later.

Obviously points on the table are the most important thing, Miles, especially for Bath who have pulled themselves out of the relegation zone, but who will have West Country bragging rights on Saturday?

MILES REPLIES: It obviously is important for Bath to win at home, especially as they have just started to turn the corner. To lose momentum in this game would be a disappointment to say the least! But, this match is just as vital for Gloucester as they are still within striking distance of the top four. Yet, then again, if Bath win on Saturday, they would be level on points with Gloucester if no bonus points exchanged hands. It is really tight on that table and that is why this game is so important regardless of the local derby element. There was a time when Gloucester could not beat Bath for love nor money, home or away - but those times have changed and there is no doubt that Glaws will feel they have a big chance on Saturday to win at the Rec again. I'll speak to you all from Bath for what is always one of the best days of the domestic season.

back to top

Other Rugby Union Experts:

Latest Posts in Rugby Union:

Dewi Morris

Heart and soul

Dewi Morris looks at a crucial weekend in the Championship as we head towards the play-offs....

Stuart Barnes

Ups and downs

Stuart Barnes says the drama of relegation must be kept in rugby, but the play-offs need changing....

Latest News RSS feeds

Late bonus for Bath

Bath moved back up to third in the Aviva Premiership table thanks to a 32-20 victory over bottom club Worcester.

Five-try Wasps down Gloucester

Wasps moved into the European play-off spot with a 38-30 victory over Gloucester in the Aviva Premiership at Twickenham.

Sharks power past Chiefs

Sale Sharks ran in eight tries on their way to a crushing 55-12 victory over their top six rivals Exeter at Sandy Park.

Diamond: We hit form today

Steve Diamond was 'delighted' after Sale secured a place in next season's European Rugby Champions Cup.

Munster see off Connacht

Munster warmed up for their Heineken Cup semi-final against Toulon with a bonus-point 32-23 victory over Connacht.

Features

Win London 7s tickets

Win London 7s tickets

Click here for your chance to win tickets to the Marriott London Sevens with Game Changers.

Harlequins' Nick Evans speaks exclusively to Sky Sports

Harlequins' Nick Evans speaks exclusively to Sky Sports

While Premier League football managers have spent their run-in perfecting the art of ruling themselves out of contention, Nick Evans insists Harlequins are adopting a far more assertive philosophy as their push for an Aviva Premiership play-off berth reaches a crucial juncture.

Sky Sports have signed the rights to the Top 14, France's premier rugby competition

Sky Sports have signed the rights to the Top 14, France's premier rugby competition

Sky Sports will offer customers even more top class rugby union from next season, after securing a five-year agreement to show France's Top 14 exclusively live.