Friday 20 April 2018

Joseph makes Dublin return looking for some Easter atonement

Bath's Jonathan Joseph insists he is prepared for Leinster's tricks. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
Bath's Jonathan Joseph insists he is prepared for Leinster's tricks. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

Oliver Brown

For Jonathan Joseph, a swift return to Dublin brings a chance of atonement. A month ago, in the same broiling cauldron that is the Aviva Stadium, England's express train of an outside-centre suffered his one momentary derailment.

The suffocating Irish defence ensured, in inflicting a 19-9 defeat that effectively decided the Six Nations, that the genie was kept inside the bottle. But Joseph finds that his restoration to home comforts at Bath, who confront Leinster today as favourites among the four English contenders to reach the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup, offers a chance to script an alternative ending.

This time, Joseph feels prepared for the Irish tricks that did for him a month ago: the smothering resistance, the bombardment of high balls. Given the number of international starters returning on both sides - seven for Leinster, four for Bath - the undercurrent of 'Ireland v England, Act Two' is unmistakable.

"I guess we know what to expect in certain areas," Joseph says. "We have the detail on them, although we are concentrating more on the 'Bath way'. We feel that if we get it right, it could be a good day for us."

Joseph is integral to the Bath way, or what Mike Ford describes as "chaos attack": namely, an ability to derive order from confusion, to discover paths through the obdurate defences so prevalent in the game.

So much of England's attack throughout the Six Nations pivoted around Joseph, whose combination of raw athleticism and lithe lateral movement yielded four tries and many more comparisons with Jeremy Guscott, his celebrated predecessor in the No 13 jersey for club and country.

Joseph, though, plays down those comparisons, saying: "It's always nice to hear, but I don't get carried away with that stuff. I try to keep my head down."

He is desperate to protect an opportunity that he has so emphatically claimed after 18 months on the England periphery.

"I missed out on the tour of New Zealand last year, which was gutting. In pre-season, I made a real effort to turn things around, to do all the extra stuff I felt I had to do to get where I needed to be." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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