London Irish Vs. Bath Preview
Ah, Rob Andrew. Don’t you just love him? Getting the England team announced over a week early, so that people writing previews can discount those players on England duty from our observations. No doubt we will be made to look complete idiots as the England players ramble out for a stroll around the park at the weekend. It will at least give us supporters an insight to how much influence the Squeaky one brings to bear in his new job. Will the clubs take a blind bit of notice? Will it rob us of the Casey V Grewcock battle of the locks? Let’s hope not. For all of Grewcock’s failings, perceived or otherwise, if he were in your squad, how far down the weekend’s team sheet would you go before writing his name in?
The Premiership teams have had a two week holiday from competitive games with the 6 Nations getting off to a flying start, with only England and France now being contenders for the Grand Slam. Sunday 11th March could be the crucial game of that tournament.
London Irish have, as usual, had no player involvement in the main fixtures, with just Catt and Geraghty involved with the England A set-up. Mike captained the team against Ireland and did a good enough job to have several pundits calling for him to get the nod for the Senior Team. Both should be in action at the Madejski on Saturday. With the announcement of the Fluteymeister departing for pastures new, there is an element of the supporters who are questioning whether he will be committed to the cause (or will it be the Causeway) for the rest of the season. Shane has, with his great performances become the incumbent no. 10 with the bauld Baz providing sterling back-up. Barry has looked pretty sharp when he has appeared of late. My view is that it is essential that Catt starts at 12 to give the Irish back line the momentum needed to break through what will be a dogged Bath defence. Lining up at 10 for Bath will be a relatively unknown fly half, Olly Barkley. I’m looking forward to seeing how he and Shane trade off each other.
The last game London Irish played was away at Saracens, where according to popular lore, the Exiles squad had sent some of the players on holiday a day early.
The previous 5 meetings of the clubs have resulted in 2 wins each and a draw. Honours even then. Both clubs are having mixed seasons resulting in low mid-tableness with Bath 4 points ahead of Irish on 30 points and in 6th place at this stage of the season. Bath’s last 2 games were away and then home to Harlequins with the home team being the victor on both occasions, The Stoop producing a 6-3 result, with the reverse fixture providing a veritable scorefest, ending in a 31 points to 23 victory for the boys in Black and Blue.
London Irish on the other hand have beaten Leicester at home and suffered losses at Gloucester and Saracens away. The last home League win was when Irish gave Northampton a right going over in a 40-5 victory back in November.
For us supporters of the Premiership, it will be good to get a game under our belts out in the fresh air as opposed to watching games on the box. For the team managers and coaches, it should have been a chance to get the injured fit or at least battle ready. Overall, both teams should have their first choice teams on display. Beefy will have run off his breakfast from a week or so ago. Apparently he hasn’t been allowed to eat anything at all since, such was the effect of Black Pudding on his Body Mass Index!
Despite the poor weather forecast at the weekend, I am forecasting a tight start to the game, with kickers trading penalties in a low scoring first half. Lots of sideways movement with a late opening up of play with just a deciding try between the teams. Which way will it go? Too tight to call in these games where late scores to break hearts are the order of the day. On the other hand, either team could just have a blinder and be out of sight by half time. Unlikely I feel. For London Irish, this game really is a must win to keep hopes of qualifying for the Heineken Cup alive for next season.
We have Rip the Calico in the Cowshed for pre and post match Ceol agus Craic. See you there!