Preview: Bath v Gloucester

Date published: May 15 2015

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Bath have made three changes to their starting line-up for Saturday's Premiership derby against Gloucester at the Recreation Ground.

Semesa Rokoduguni, Ollie Devoto and Rob Webber will all line up against the Cherry and Whites in the final match of the regular season.

Fresh from his try-scoring exploits in the Army v Navy fixture at Twickenham last Saturday, Rokoduguni is named on the wing alongside Matt Banahan, with Anthony Watson at full-back.  

Devoto comes in at number 13, outside Kyle Eastmond at 12. Peter Stringer and George Ford continue their half-back partnership for the fourth successive match.

Webber packs down at hooker, with Paul James at loosehead and tighthead David Wilson back for his second match since making a successful return from injury in Round 21. Dave Attwood and Dominic Day start in the second-row.

Openside Francois Louw captains the side in his 70th appearance for the club in an unchanged back-row also featuring blindside Sam Burgess and number eight Leroy Houston.

Meanwhile, Gloucester full-back Rob Cook is named in the Cherry and Whites' starting line-up for the first time since mid-November.

Cook's availability is a welcome boost as Gloucester ring the changes following an unrelenting fixture list in recent weeks, which has seen the club battle through three tough games to lift the European Rugby Challenge Cup, and face the prospect of two possible play-off games for the 20th and final spot in next season's Champions Cup.

Nick Wood will skipper the side which features just three of the team who started last weekend's 35-13 victory over London Irish at Kingsholm.

Tom Hicks, Lewis Ludlow and Aled Thomas will make their first Premiership starts.

There are eight Academy players in the matchday 23 with two of them, Lloyd Evans and Sam Underhill, also set for Premiership bows if they come off the bench.

Gloucester director of rugby David Humphreys admitted that team selection for this weekend has been a balancing act.

"It's been a difficult week," he said.

"We obviously have the suspensions but also a number of players out injured as well.

"It's a case of trying to get the best team that we can available for this weekend, bearing in mind the importance of the two potential games that are coming up with the play-offs.

"Every game is important. We've said all along that we will fight right up until the end of the league. But we also have to understand that we're going into two possible play-off games which will have a huge impact upon next season.

"The derby will always have a bit of an edge to it and, whoever wears the Gloucester shirt this weekend, will go out 100 percent committed to producing a big performance and making sure we continue to build upon the hard work that has been going on over the course of the last few months.

"This week we're going to one of the top two teams in England whose form has been very consistent. So, for us it's a challenge, and we need to go down there well prepared for what we're going to face and produce as good a performance as we can."

Form: Bath have already ensured that they will host an Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final encounter for the first time, having reached that stage for the first time since 2010. Bath have won their last five fixtures in the competition and are the best team on current form, dropping just two possible league points in that sequence. Bath’s only home defeat in Premiership Rugby since March 2014 came at the hands of Northampton on 21st February. Gloucester have lost just one of their last six first team fixtures: 26-29 to Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 11th April. Gloucester have not won away from home in the competition since beating Exeter 26-25 at Sandy Park in round 12. Bath have won their last five contests with Gloucester in all tournaments since their near neighbour’s 16-10 triumph at Kingsholm in Premiership Rugby in October 2012, whilst their most recent victory at The Recreation Ground came the previous February.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Francois Louw (c), 6 Sam Burgess, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Matt Garvey, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Horacio Agulla, 23 Tom Homer.

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Steph Reynolds, 13 Henry Purdy, 12 Brendan Macken, 11 Steve McColl, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Lewis Ludlow, 7 Dan Thomas, 6 Elliott Stooke, 5 James Hudson, 4 Tom Hicks, 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Nick Wood (capt).
Replacements: 16, Darren Dawidiuk, 17 James Gibbons, 18 Yann Thomas, 19 Sam Underhill, 20 Jacob Rowan, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Lloyd Evans, 23 Mark Atkinson.

Date: Saturday, May 16
Kick-off: 15:30 BST, 14:30 GMT
Venue: Recreation Ground
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant referees: Kelvin Stewart, Simon McConnell
Television match official: Stuart Terheege
Timekeeper: Laurie Bryant
Assessor: Tony Spreadbury

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