Monday 5 December 2016

Philosopher Attwood prepared for an earful in Aviva rematch

Published 01/04/2015 | 02:30

Attwood: 'The modelling days are on hold. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board on that one'
Attwood: 'The modelling days are on hold. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board on that one'

Not many players can boast having a degree in physics and philosophy, let alone attempting to apply it to their career as a professional.

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When Bath and England second-row David Attwood sought to address the ugly badges of honour that are a forward's 'cauliflower ears', he thought he'd discovered the solution - leeches who could suck the pus from the offending appendage.

Sadly, the experiment failed.

"The experts told me I didn't get on to it early enough," says the 27-year-old.

"The feedback was that perhaps if I did it before Richie McCaw battered me I might have had a chance but it was too late to save the old ears."

And so philosophy kicked in. "The modelling days are on hold. We'll have to go back to the drawing board on that one."

Physics and philosophy might seem an odd marriage; after all, only the former is predicated upon scientific fact.

"When you get to degree level they do," says the former Bristol University student. "At the top end of physics, nobody has any clue what is going on at all. That's the crux of it really.

"Everything becomes so small that nobody can ascertain exactly every single thing. So that's where it all becomes a bit of a philosophical question."

When the margins become miniscule, other elements take over. The last time Attwood visited Dublin's Aviva Stadium, he tackled his heart out - he was top performer with 19 - but the stats were undone in collective defeat.

It could have been so different had England made hay from a close-in lineout midway through the first-half; sadly for Attwood, Devin Toner nicked the pill in the air and the chance was lost.

A victory for physics and a lesson in philosophy.

"It was a good day for me," he says. "I was pretty pleased with my performance. It just wasn't the collective result we wanted. There are a few guys in our team who gave a good account of themselves so we'll be looking to replicate that."

Though not Bath's last visit here, when they were blown away 52-27 in a pool game, albeit they seem better placed to launch a challenge four years on from that set-back against that term's European champions.

"We got taught a lesson how to play European rugby. The Premiership is very intensive and gritty but Europe was a step up and we didn't have the legs to make an impression.

"Leinster were very slick, professional and ruthless. We started the game thinking we were not far away but finished it miles away.

"We won in Toulouse already this year but we don't want to be the type of team who sit on their laurels and reflect on something that we've done in the past. We've put out performances but now we need to produce that when we need to.

"If we want to reach the heights we want to reach, we need to do it on a more consistent basis. And that begins this weekend."

The aerial battle can turn a game as the Six Nations meeting between many of this weekend's cast demonstrated.

"A lot of what we'll do at lineout time will be to shut down key threats. Obviously Devin is a massive threat. But looking at their statistics, he is such a threat that they sometimes throw to other people, like Jamie Heaslip and Mike McCarthy. It's one of their strengths. They have guys who combine at international level so those relationships are solid.

"We're two teams who like to play with the ball; Leinster are exceptional from first-phase. We've got some pretty exciting backs ourselves and we'll be keen to give them some front-foot ball.

"But we can play it anyway. That's been our strength in the last number of years.

"Our scrum is very efficient and we've got a lot of rewards from that area. And the lineout drive has been a real weapon for us in the last couple of seasons.

"So much of what they do revolves around special players. The problem is that they have so many special players that you end up reviewing a lot of footage. We'll be confident with what we can do as a team. And I'm pretty sure they'll be worried about our threats as well."

Bath's philosophy is admirable. But first the physics must be spot on.

Irish Independent

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