Preview: Bath v Sale Sharks

Date published: October 6 2016

Bath have made seven changes to their side to face Sale Sharks in Round Six of the Premiership at the Recreation Ground on Friday.

Jonathan Joseph, Dave Attwood and Zach Mercer return to the starting XV while club captain Guy Mercer and Adam Hastings feature on the bench.

Tom Homer retains his place at full-back with Semesa Rokoduguni providing the threat on the right wing. Joseph makes his return to the side to partner Matt Banahan in the centres, meaning a positional change for Aled Brew, who shifts to the left wing. George Ford, who will once again co-captain the side with Matt Garvey, continues his successful partnership with Kahn Fotuali’i in the half-backs.

The front-row from last weekend’s derby win against Gloucester is unchanged, with Nathan Catt, Tom Dunn and Henry Thomas packing down at the coal face. Attwood comes back into the starting line-up and partners Elliott Stooke in the second-row, with Mercer starting at number eight. Garvey and Tom Ellis continue on the flanks either side of him.

Todd Blackadder, Director of Rugby, said: "Obviously it’s great to have JJ back in the mix – he’s an exciting, dynamic player who offers us a real attacking platform. It means that Aled can shift out to the wing, his more natural position, so we’re looking forward to seeing how he goes. Zach Mercer has performed really well when he’s had the chance this season, and deserves his start, and we’re thrilled that Guy Mercer is back in the matchday squad.

"Sale have been in great form, and we know they are a tough side to beat. We’ve had a good week’s preparation, and hopefully we’ll be able to put that into the game tomorrow night and end this block of Premiership games in a good place.

"Anthony Watson broke his jaw in the England training camp earlier this week. It’s too early for a full medical prognosis on how long he’ll be out for, but it’s likely he’ll miss the Autumn Internationals. He’s in great hands with our medical team, and we look forward to seeing him back on the pitch when he’s ready."

Meanwhile, Steve Diamond has made two changes to last week's Sale side which secured a bonus-point victory over Leicester Tigers at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Brian Mujati comes in for his first game of the season, replacing Kieran Longbottom who picked up an injury last weekend. Eifion Lewis Roberts also starts in the Sharks front row, with Ross Harrison reverting to the bench.

Sam James returns to the starting XV at centre, having missed the previous two games through injury, and Will Addison moves to the wing.

There is also a welcome return for Mike Haley, who is set to make his first appearance of the season, having recovered from a shoulder injury for England Saxons in the summer.

Ahead of the game, Diamond said: "Bath are a different outfit this year, we need to go down there and try and assert some control up front and if we can do that, then we stand a chance. It's a difficult place to win. We pride ourselves on what we're doing well, we just need some consistency."

Form: Bath have lost just one match under the stewardship of Todd Blackadder: 14-34 at Leicester in round 4 of Aviva Premiership Rugby. Bath have not been beaten at the Recreation Ground since Saracens were the visitors on 1st April. Sale Sharks have scored 34 points and four tries in both of their last two matches but have not recorded a try bonus point in three successive Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters since November 2002. Sharks have won twice away from home since March, at London Irish and at Newcastle in rounds 19 and 22 last season. Bath have beaten Sale in three of the last four fixtures, whilst Sharks have been victorious on two of their last five most recent visits to the Recreation Ground.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Aled Brew, 10 George Ford (cc), 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Tom Ellis, 6 Matt Garvey (cc), 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Jeff Williams

Sale: 15 Byron McGuigan, 14 Will Addison, 13 Sam James, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Josh Beaumont (c), 7 David Seymour, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Jonathan Mills, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts
Replacements: 16 Ross Harrison, 17 Halani Aulika, 18 Andrei Ostrikov, 19 Magnus Lund, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Dan Mugford, 23 Mike Haley

Date: Friday, October 7
Venue: Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 19:45 BST (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix, Jonathan Healy
TMO: Stuart Terheege