Preview: Bath v Northampton

Date published: May 1 2014

Bath club captain Stuart Hooper will make his 200th Premiership appearance on Friday as he leads the team against Northampton Saints.

Bath club captain Stuart Hooper will make his 200th Premiership appearance on Friday as he leads the team against Northampton Saints.

Both teams will be aiming to cement their place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs with just one more round of the regular season to be played out.

Hooper is joined in the second row by the returning Dave Attwood, as Paul James and David Wilson come back to form an all-international front row alongside hooker Rob Webber.

Carl Fearns, taking the blindside shirt in place of the injured Matt Garvey, starts in the back row with openside Guy Mercer and number eight Leroy Houston.

Land Rover Discovery of the Season nominees George Ford and Anthony Watson are selected in the back line.

Ford is partnered in the half-backs with Micky Young, while Watson starts on the right wing with Matt Banahan providing a looming presence on the left.

A young midfield formed of inside centre Ollie Devoto and Jonathan Joseph at 13 is bolstered by the experienced Nick Abendanon at full-back.

Meanwhile, Northampton's coaches have made five changes to the starting line-up from that which began the Challenge Cup semi-final win over Harlequins last weekend.

Ben Foden, Ken Pisi and Luther Burrell all come into the back line, with Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood stepping up from the bench. Wood wears the captain's armband for the trip to the Recreation Ground.

Form: Bath head into Friday's clash in good form, having won their last four matches in all competitions – and a bonus-point win against Saints would cement their first Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final since 2010. Northampton have enjoyed an excellent Aviva Premiership record against Bath in recent years, winning their last five league encounters. And they recently kicked a poor run, beating London Irish 36-21 in round 20 to end a three-match losing streak, before an 18-10 Amlin Challenge Cup win against Harlequins. Victory at The Rec will see Saints confirm a home semi-final for only the second time.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Micky Young, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Carl Fearns, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Alafoti Fa'osiliva, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Gavin Henson, 23 Horacio Agulla

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood (c), 6 Calum Clark, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Gareth Denman, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 James Craig, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Alex Day, 22 James Wilson, 23 Tom Collins

Date: Friday, May 2
Venue: The Rec
Kickoff: 19:45 (local, 18:45 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Roger Baileff
TMO: Graham Hughes / Greg Garner