Meehan backing Moody
Bath boss says Moody ready to return to England duty next week
Last Updated: 20/02/11 1:55pm
Moody: Bath return
Bath boss Steve Meehan says Lewis Moody is ready to start for England against France next week after his return to action against Northampton on Saturday.
Moody made a 23-minute appearance as Bath battered Saints 38-8 at The Rec in the Aviva Premiership, and Meehan believes he is fit enough to start again for England.
After captaining England during the autumn, Moody missed the RBS Six Nations wins over Wales and Italy through injury, and has had limited action in the last five weeks.
However, Meehan would not be surprised if Moody started for England at Twickenham on Saturday against France, most likely in place of James Haskell, and also regained the captaincy off Mike Tindall.
"Martin Johnson hinted at it in the week when he said that guys who have been around for 10 years with 70 caps (like Moody) have credits in the bank," said Meehan.
"If he is fit enough, and as captain, I wouldn't be surprised if he ran out against France."
Moody said he was delighted to be back, emerging unscathed from his first appearance since he was injured during Bath's Heineken Cup clash against Italian side Aironi last month.
"I felt good. It is nice to have a run-out," he said. "The knee is a little bit stiff, but I didn't feel it at all during the game. Fingers crossed, we have gone through everything, and full credit to the physios for everything they've done.
"Everyone has worked very hard - and I am going to be an excitable boy to be back in the England camp tomorrow.
"It is a decision for the week. It is nice to be fit and getting out on to the pitch and having some game-time. I was a little bit nervous, not for the knee, but just to be back out there and playing."
Matt Banahan also sent out a message to Johnson with three tries during Bath's emphatic victory.
On Banahan's blistering display, Meehan added: "He certainly sent a message to the England coaches. They should be confident of starting him. Today was a good illustration of what he is about."
A delighted Banahan was quick to offer praise elsewhere though, as Bath made it seven wins from their last eight starts in all competitions.
"I thought some of the forwards were outstanding - they really put the hard yards in," he said. "Rugby is a game you are always learning about, and it is about giving myself the best opportunity in a game."
It was Saints' fourth successive league loss, and rugby director Jim Mallinder did not use the 20-minute delay to the start as an excuse.
"It wasn't ideal," he said. "But professional players have got to cope with different things. It did not affect the outcome of the game.
"If you let Bath get on the front foot, they've got a really good offloading game, and when Matt Banahan has a game like that, they are very difficult to stop.
"We were all at sea. The players know they played badly. They have come off second best after a bad day at the office."