Preview: Bath v Newcastle

Date published: September 9 2016

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Luke Charteris and Zach Mercer will make their competitive debuts for Bath on Saturday when they host Newcastle at the Recreation Ground.

Charteris and Mercer feature in a pack that sees five changes – four personnel and one positional. Welsh international Charteris links up with Dave Attwood in the second-row for his first appearance in the Blue, Black and White, with Mercer lining up alongside Charlie Ewels, who moves to the blindside flank, and David Sisi, who makes his first start of the season on the openside.

In the front-row, Ross Batty continues at hooker, flanked by Nick Auterac on the loosehead side (fresh from making his 50th appearances against Northampton last time out), and Kane Palma-Newport at tighthead, who is also making his first start of the term.

The backline is unchanged, with Kahn Fotuali'i and George Ford, who captains the side, pulling the strings in the half-back positions. Matt Banahan and Semesa Rokoduguni maintain their guard on the wings, as Max Clark and Jonathan Joseph partner up in the midfield. Tom Homer provides the threat from full-back.

"We're really excited about running out at the Rec tomorrow – us new guys have been told about what a great atmosphere it is, and we really can't wait to experience it ourselves," said director of rugby Todd Blackadder.

"We've got a few knocks in the squad, but it's such a great opportunity for the young guys to step up and show us what they can do. It's a good test of the depth of the squad, and we're really looking forward to the likes of Zach Mercer, who is making his senior debut for the club, getting out there and giving it his all."

Meanwhile, Newcastle Falcons have made a single change to their starting XV for Saturday’s Premiership trip to Bath.

Alex Rogers comes into the side in place of Taione Vea, the Tongan prop who was injured during last Friday's 19-17 opening-night victory over Sale Sharks. Rogers slots in on the loosehead side as Scottish international Jon Welsh slides across to tighthead, Newcastle's starting team otherwise unchanged as Will Welch once again leads the side.

Sean Robinson comes on to the bench after undergoing a shoulder operation at the end of last season, Bath old boy Michael Young also added to the list of replacements against his former club.

Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards said ahead of the West Country clash: "Our away form is one of the things we have talked about. We didn't win one away in the league last season and we know we need to alleviate that. We feel we are much better equipped this year, especially when you consider we had 19 or 20 injuries last summer plus a load of guys away at the World Cup. This time we are in a far better position with a much stronger squad and far fewer injuries."

Form: Bath have won their last two Aviva Premiership Rugby matches at home to Leicester and away at Northampton, but have not won three in a row in the tournament since the end of the 2014/15 campaign. Bath have been defeated just once at the Recreation Ground since February: 10-30 to champions Saracens on 1st April. Newcastle Falcons beat Sale 19-17 at Kingston Park on Friday but have not begun an Aviva Premiership Rugby season with victories in the opening two rounds since 2004/05. The Falcons have not won away from home since a visit to London Irish in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in February 2015. Bath's only loss to Newcastle since October 2009 was 14-19 at Kingston Park on 2 January, whilst Newcastle have not been victorious at the Recreation Ground since a trip in October 2009.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Clark, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford (c), 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 David Sisi, 6 Charlie Ewels, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Kane Palma-Newport, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nick Auterac
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Levi Douglas, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jeff Williams

Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Evan Olmstead, 5 Will Witty, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alex Rogers
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Michael Young, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Dominic Waldouck

Date: Saturday, September 10
Venue: Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Gareth Copsey, Simon McConnell
TMO: David Rose

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