Preview: Bath v Harlequins

Date published: February 17 2017

Bath will welcome back Taulupe Faletau to the starting line-up for Saturday’s Premiership game against Harlequins at the Recreation Ground.

Faletau made his comeback as a second-half replacement for Wales against England on Saturday and returns to the Bath team at number eight. Joining him in the back row is co-captain Francois Louw and David Denton, who will make his first start in the league since September.

In an unchanged front five, Nathan Catt, Tom Dunn and Max Lahiff head up the scrum with Charlie Ewels and Elliott Stooke completing the forward pack.

It will also be a landmark day for Rory Jennings, who will make his Premiership debut at inside centre with support in the midfield coming in the form of Max Clark.

After kicking the crucial match-winning penalty in the 32-30 victory over Northampton Saints last Friday, Rhys Priestland will be looking to have a similar impact on proceedings combining with Kahn Fotuali’i in a potent half-back pairing.

Semesa Rokoduguni will be keen to add to his impressive tally in a Bath shirt from the wing after scoring his 48th try on his 100th appearance for the Club last week. Jack Wilson makes his second successive Aviva Premiership start on the left wing, with Tom Homer at full-back.

Meanwhile, there are three changes to the Harlequins side that beat Bristol last week. In the one change to the backline, Aaron Morris returns to start at full-back.

Mark Reddish and Charlie Matthews are named in the second row, replacing George Merrick who has been named on the bench, and James Horwill, who misses out after sustaining an ankle injury last week. Horwill is expected to return in a few weeks.

In Horwill’s absence, openside flanker Dave Ward is named as captain.

Among the replacements, Nick Evans returns from injury.

Speaking ahead of the match Harlequins director of rugby, John Kingston, said: “Last week’s bonus point away win cemented our excellent recent form in the Aviva Premiership, where we have collected 14 points from our last four matches.

“The visit to Bath will undoubtedly be tough especially set against our well documented list of unavailable and injured players.

“The squad are in terrific heart however, and are very much looking forward to the challenge.”

Form: Bath’s 32-30 victory at home to Northampton Saints in Round 14 ended a three game losing run in the Premiership. Bath’s only two defeats at the Recreation Ground this season were 20-21 to Leicester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and 11-17 to Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership. Harlequins have lost just once in the last four rounds of the Premiership: 17-24 at Worcester on New Year’s Day. Harlequins have won their last two away games in all competitions but have not won three in a row on their travels since February 2013. Harlequins have won their last three encounters with Bath since Bath’s 27-26 victory at Twickenham Stoop in May 2015 whilst Quins are going for successive victories at the Recreation Ground for the first time in the professional era.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Max Clark, 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Jack Wilson, 10 Rhys Priestland (cc), 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Francois Louw (cc), 6 David Denton, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Tom Ellis, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Harry Davies

Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Matt Hopper, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Dave Ward (c), 6 James Chisholm, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Owen Evans
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Tyler Gendall, 18 Matt Shields, 19 George Merrick, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Luc Jones, 22 Nick Evans, 23 Alofa Alofa

Date: Saturday, February 18
Venue: The Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Rogers Baileff
TMO: David Rose