BBC Sport rugbyunion


Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 14:15 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 15:15 UK

Jeremy Guscott column

Jeremy Guscott

Former Bath, England and Lions centre

The BBC Sport rugby union pundit runs the rule over Saturday's Guinness Premiership semi-finals.

Leicester v Bath (1500 BST)

Congratulations to head coach Richard Cockerill for Leicester getting through that epic Heineken Cup shoot-out win over Cardiff.

They have timed their run brilliantly but they've been in some tough matches, none more so than last weekend, and there is only so much a team can do physically.

Michael Claassens
Claassens could be a match-winner for Bath this weekend

Considering the stage of the season we're at, they should have been putting their feet up to prepare for these games.

You have to ask yourself, what exactly do they have their eye on? Is it this semi-final? Is it the final of the Heineken Cup? This is a tough ask for Leicester.

As for Bath, they have got to get the love back for the game they had at the start of season.

Following the ban of prop Matt Stevens, it is no coincidence they are now not playing their flowing game of old. The loss of Stevens has had a big impact on their performances.

If coach Steve Meehan looks to grind out a victory then they'll lose. If I was them I would try to run this game at a million miles an hour. Bath could win this game in the first 10 minutes if they really went at Leicester.

I feel Bath have lost it a bit, and they have lost games they know they should have won, but they will definitely win this one

Jeremy Guscott

But, and it's a big but, they would have to be careful. With two interception passes they could easily be 14-0 down in the first 10 minutes - and that's the dilemma facing Meehan.

He might be tempted to go a bit more steady because you have to ask whether Leicester will have the stamina in the last 15 minutes but, as a spectator, I want Bath just to go for it from the start.

Scrum-half Michael Claassens is their key player and fly-half Ryan Davis has got to nail his penalties - this is a massive game for him.

Winger Joe Maddock should be looked out for as well. He's been Bath's player of the year, as well as being the leading try scorer. He is still a relatively unknown but he's the complete rugby player.

You should also look out for a big game from forward Peter Short.

Bath were drudge a few years ago, while for the last two seasons they have been close to the most all-round team. I feel they have lost games this season they know they should have won, but they will definitely win this one.

Harlequins v London Irish (1730 BST)

This is the most attractive of the two semi-finals and should be the most open. Quins have grown this season but they are not a team of superstars.

If Nicky Evans wasn't playing, then I would say the Exiles would definitely win but he has shaken off his thigh injury and they have some good players coming through.

West Country Wonder

One key man is winger Ugo Monye. He's a solid lump, but he's quick and is a well-balanced individual and has established himself as international class. He has become a complete player by getting more involved and I think he's set to go on to another level.

Another one to watch is centre Jordan Turner-Hall. He is a big bloke and I used to see him as one-dimensional but he now has a more rounded game and gets others involved.

Full-back Mike Brown is not the threat he used to be. He's not massively below par but his consistency is letting him down.

And then there's Danny Care. He's young and ambitious and wants the whole rugby world, but I feel his talent needs harnessing. He needs to play in a very good team to realise how much room for improvement there is. That may be a hard thing to say, but although he's a good player, he is far from great.

Ogu Monye
Monye (centre) has become the "complete" player, says Guscott

Put him in an All Black team and yes, the ride would be much easier for him but his professionalism and attitude would be way back from the rest of them.

London Irish coach Toby Booth, meanwhile, has declared that he's looking for all-out attack and it's good to hear. They are a bit like Barcelona in football. They are playing unbelievably with an exciting back three and midfield bruisers.

They've got the artillery to play that ballsy kind of game and I love it. It must be great to go out with the belief that if the other team scores three tries, then you hit back with four or five.

It will be very close between these two teams and I think Quins will edge it - especially with Evans in the side.

Print Sponsor

see also
Leicester v Bath
08 May 09 |  English
Harlequins v London Irish
08 May 09 |  English
Cardiff 26-26 Leicester (aet)
03 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott column
05 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Vesty ready for fly-half return
07 May 09 |  Leicester
Flatman relishing Tigers re-match
08 May 09 |  Bath
Hape shaping up to make his mark
08 May 09 |  Bath
Leicester 20-15 Bath
11 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Leicester 73-3 Bristol
25 Apr 09 |  English
Bath 33-18 Saracens
25 Apr 09 |  English

related bbc links:

related internet links:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites