Ollie Phillips: Bath will sneak win against troubled Wasps
I’m going to call it: I think Bath will pick up their first Premiership win of the season this weekend against Wasps. While they struggled against Bristol Bears and Sale Sharks in their opening two matches, I get a sense that they could be about to snap out of their losing habit.
There’s an opportunity against Wasps, who capitulated against Gloucester and last week barely turned up against Bristol. Throw in their off-field woes and it could be a perfect storm for Bath to capitalise on.
Johann van Graan, head coach of the West Country club, doesn’t have the quality of squad he did at Munster – a problem compounded by superstar prop Beno Obano’s knee injury – but he’s the type of character to get them buying into his vision.
So yes I am backing Bath, but there’s work to do at the Rec no matter what happens tonight.
Around the grounds
Elsewhere in the Premiership, I fancy Bristol to beat London Irish tomorrow afternoon. This is the kind of match Irish need to win if they’re going to finish in the top four. I fear they might end up a little bit off that. Bristol played very well against Wasps last week and I think they’ll carry that into this week.
I also back Leicester to win the East Midlands derby at Northampton. This is a monumental test for Phil Dowson and his Saints side against the champions but there is opportunity there; the Tigers have not been firing so far this season and now is as good a time to play them as any.
Whether Saracens’ internationals are named in their starting XV in north London tomorrow will decide whether I back Gloucester or the home side. If the likes of Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell line up against the Cherry and Whites I don’t think Gloucester have too much of a chance, but that changes if they’re rested.
Should the game go ahead, I also think Newcastle will compound Worcester’s misery and inflict a third defeat on the financially troubled Midlands club. Newcastle are still finding their feet without boss Dean Richards but I just think Worcester are a little lost, despite the heart they showed in defeat to Exeter last week.
On Sunday there’s an absolute humdinger in deepest Devon. Exeter and Harlequins couldn’t have more different styles but, as we saw in last week’s match between Quins and Saracens, that doesn’t necessarily mean a boring game. Both sides are so committed to their own approaches that you know there will be no budging, and I cannot wait. I think the Chiefs might just nick it.
Roses in rude health
Away from the Premiership, I want to give a shout out to Mo Hunt, Vicky Fleetwood and the other Red Roses who didn’t make it into the 32-player England squad for the World Cup.
The quality of players excluded is testament to where England are now in terms of depth and I cannot wait to see how the Roses get on in New Zealand next month. We’re favourites, for sure, but that’s something they have handled well recently and I back them to continue doing so
Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn.