Preview: Bath v Newcastle

Date published: February 10 2012

Scotland international Euan Murray returns to the Newcastle Falcons front-row for Saturday's Aviva Premiership trip to Bath.

Scotland international Euan Murray returns to the Newcastle Falcons front-row for Saturday's Aviva Premiership trip to Bath.

Murray, who played in last weekend's Six Nations defeat to England, is one of four changes as the Falcons begin their Premiership survival bid.

Corne Uys is out with a rib injury and is replaced by Jamie Helleur at outside centre while in the pack Grant Shiells and Will Welch round off the changes.

Andrew van der Heijden makes a welcome return to the bench after being sidelined with a knee injury and Matt Thompson has a place amongst the replacements following a shoulder injury.

“I have a great bunch of guys here and to a man I do not think that there is a guy who is not desperate to get back to winning ways. There is a lot of hard work ahead of us and we are continuously hampered by injuries but unfortunately the world of sport is like that,” said Falcons director of rugby, Gary Gold.

“It is no good moaning and groaning about it, it is just the way that it is and we have to adapt to it the best that we can. I am really encouraged with the attitude of the guys on the training field and the intensity in the sessions has increased quite a lot so hopefully the pressure they are put under is training can be emulated in the games.”

Bath sit two places above the Falcons in tenth but three wins on the bounce in both the Heineken Cup and LV= Cup has boosted confidence for the West Country outfit.

Gold is expecting a stern test from Sir Ian McGeechan's unit.

“Bath have turned their season around with some good wins in their last few outings,” he said.

“Their confidence is going to be high and I think Sir Ian McGeechan has done a very good job down there – we are certainly going to have our hands full this weekend.

“It is going to be as tough as it was at Leicester last week if not tougher and the guys realise that. We are going to have to front up this weekend and I really hope that we can put up a good showing.”

Meanwhile, Bath have made just three changes to the starting line-up that secured victory over Exeter Chiefs last weekend.

Ryan Caldwell comes back into the starting line up to partner Dave Attwood in the second row, with Ben Skirving shifting back to the blindside flank.

Francois Louw moves to the openside, and Simon Taylor continues at number eight. Lee Mears once more starts at hooker, with David Flatman and Anthony Perenise either side of him in the front row.

Tom Heathcote comes in at fly-half, partnering Michael Claassens, who also returns to the starting line-up.

The back-line remains unchanged, with Tom Biggs and Olly Woodburn on the wings, Olly Barkley and Matt Banahan partnering up in the centres once more, and Sam Vesty completing the line-up at full-back.

On the bench, there is a return to the match day squad for Kane Palma-Newport and Matt Carraro.

Stephen Donald and Nick Abendanon are both unavailable after not recovering from knocks picked up last weekend, and David Wilson is out with a fractured cheekbone.

Form: Bath's only win in their last six matches of Aviva Premiership Rugby was 30-3 at home to London Irish on New Year's Day. Bath have won their last three games at the Rec since their 13-18 reversal to Leinster in the European Cup on 11 December. Newcastle Falcons have won just one of their last eight encounters in the Premiership: 26-25 at home to Gloucester in round ten. The Falcons' solitary victory on the road in the Premiership since April 2010 was at Leeds on 27 February 2011. Bath have lost only one of their last 15 clashes with Newcastle in all competitions since 2004: 16-27 at the Rec in the Premiership on 24 October 2009.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Sam Vesty, 14 Olly Woodburn, ,13 Matt Banahan, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Michael Claassens,8 Simon Taylor, 7 Francois Louw (c), 6 Ben Skirving, 5 Ryan Caldwell, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Guy Mercer, 20 Josh Ovens, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Matt Carraro, 23 Nick Scott.

Newcastle: 15 Greg Goosen, 14 Ryan Shortland, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Suka Hufanga, 10 Jimmy Gopperth (c), 9 Chris Pilgrim, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Ally Hogg,6 Will Welch,5 Tim Swinson,4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Euan Murray,2 Rob Vickers, 1 Grant Shiells.
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Jonny Golding, 18 James Hall, 19 Andrew van der Heijden, 20 Taiasina Tu'ifua, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Tom Bedford.

Date: Saturday, February 11
Venue: The Rec
Kick-off: 14:15 GMT
Referee: Dean Richards