Friday, 31 August 2012

West Country rugby seeks inoculation against 'Welsh flu'

Former England coach Jack Rowell once complained that the Bath side he had just taken charge of suffered "Welsh flu" whenever they crossed the Severn Bridge for a match. Now the West Country side are hoping to leave a few other clubs feeling queasy after signing their own Welsh bruisers.

Wales utility prop Paul James and former Wales U21 lock Dominic Day have both been recruited to give Bath more grunt in the front five. James, who has 38 caps, moved after nine years at Ospreys while Day has moved to The Rec from Scarlets.

And with Ben Morgan 's move from Parc y Scarlets to Gloucester, they represent something of a eastwards migration over the Bridge.

"A lot of the time people here don't understand what Paul and I are saying to each other," laughs Day. "Paul's a Valleys boy and we both have thick accents.

"But Paul is a clever guy and a quality player and it's great to have someone of his experience also joining Bath. I've played against him and I know he doesn't take a backwards step."

Day and James are the latest Welsh players to head to either England or France following the introduction of a £3.5 million salary cap on the Welsh regions' player budgets.

But Day doesn't believe the move will harm his and James's international prospects. He believes the move to the Premiership will give his play a harder edge.

"As long as I'm playing well and if I am in contact with the Welsh Rugby Union, then we'll see," he said. "Stephen Jones, James Hook and others - a lot of these (international) players are leaving the country. I'm sure Paul still has ambitions to carry on playing for Wales.

"A lot of players are leaving Wales at the moment for one reason or another, and for me personally it was because I felt I needed a change. Things were getting a little stale at Scarlets.

"Part of the reason for coming here is that I want to improve my forwards play. The Premiership's got a reputation as a hard league with big forwards and there are quality sides to play week in week out."

Day admits to having been taken aback by the ferocity of Bath's pre-season programme.

"It's the work rate and the workload; it's been a lot higher this pre-season," he said. "Whether it's weights or contact sessions, it's been tough. I've had to learn a lot."

It might be a steep learning curve, but there is little chance that Day or James have been homesick, at least over the past month, thanks to the distinctly Welsh flavour to Bath's warm-up matches: London Welsh, Ospreys and Cardiff Blues.

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