No fix­a­tion on Six Na­tions

Bath Chronicle - - SPORT -

Zach Mercer isn’t putting any pres­sure on him­self as the Six Na­tions rears its head on the rugby hori­zon. Af­ter serv­ing his time as an Eng­land “ap­pren­tice”, the Bath Rugby back-rower made his full de­but off the bench against South Africa in Novem­ber. He then started what turned out to be a tricky en­counter against Ja­pan and was one of sev­eral play­ers dropped for the fourth and fi­nal Au­tumn Test against Aus­tralia. Hav­ing been con­fined to the Bath bench af­ter a knee knock, Mercer was the stand­out for­ward as he started the 21-19 de­feat to Worces­ter War­riors at Sixways on Satur­day. Last week, he met up with a group of Eng­land hope­fuls to un­dergo phys­i­cal test­ing be­fore the Red Rose squad is an­nounced later this month. The Six Na­tions kicks off the first week of Fe­bru­ary and Mercer is try­ing not to fret about whether he will be picked by Ed­die Jones, es­pe­cially now Sara­cens’ Billy Vu­nipola and Wasps’ Nathan Hughes are fit again. “I just want to get my head down for Bath and take any­thing that might hap­pen as it comes,” said the 21-year-old, who scored his side’s only try against War­riors. Mercer ad­mit­ted he has never been in­volved in a game like the one on Sixways. Bath ended up with 11 men af­ter Ross Batty was sent off for a dan­ger­ous neck roll and fel­low re­place­ments Max Lahiff, Lu­cas Noguera and Aled Brew were sin-binned. Af­ter re­peated scrums Bryce Heem scored a 98th-minute try for the hosts, con­verted by Dun­can Weir to se­cure the come­back win. “That’s the first time for most peo­ple I think,” Mercer added, when asked if he had ever played in a game like that. “There was a lot of stuff go­ing on [in added time] and prob­a­bly stuff over my head which I didn’t un­der­stand the rules of. It’s just one of those things and it was a high-pres­sured en­vi­ron­ment.” Bath were pretty com­fort­able in the first half; lead­ing 19-3 at the break. Rather than push on for a win which would have seen them fifth in the league ta­ble, they are now down to eighth af­ter the week­end’s re­sults. “I put my hands up,” Mercer said. “I gave a penalty away five me­tres from the try-line think­ing the ball was out. “That’s not good enough and it prob­a­bly did change the mo­men­tum of the game. “There were a lot of mis­takes out there and it’s some­thing to look at as a team. The boys are all gut­ted. “It’s a chance lost,” he added. “But credit to Worces­ter, they came out in the sec­ond half as a dif­fer­ent team and they put us un­der pres­sure. “We wanted three wins from three from this Christ­mas pe­riod. Two isn’t bad, but we have a lot to get bet­ter at.”

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