Preview: Bath v Sale

Date published: March 5 2015

The Premiership weekend kicks off on Friday at The Rec, as struggling Bath host Danny Cipriani's Sale Sharks.

Bath's slide down to fifth feels so out of character given how dominant they have been over the first six months of the season, but the absence of key internationals has told.

Relying on Ollie Devoto while George Ford is away with England, with the trio of Dave Attwood, Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson also all away, was always going to have an effect. Devoto is an excellent talent but Ford has been in blinding form all season long. Combine that with Paul James being away with Wales, until he was injured earlier this week, and Bath lose plenty of talent.

Sale find themselves only four points behind Bath in that congested middle section of the Premiership table, but they were well beaten last weekend on their visit to Welford Road to face Leicester.

Tom Homer starts his fourth consecutive match for Bath since joining the Club in early February. He is part of an unchanged line-up in the backs from last weekend's match in Sandy Park, including wingers Semesa Rokoduguni and Olly Woodburn and centres Kyle Eastmond and Sam Burgess.

Chris Cook reclaims a starting berth at scrum-half, inside another former Bath Academy back, fly-half Devoto. 

Tighthead Henry Thomas – formerly of Sale Sharks – returns to the front row fresh from international duty with England in Dublin last weekend, where he packs down alongside Rob Webber and Nick Auterac. Captain Stuart Hooper and Dominic Day start their 12th match of the season together in the second row.

A rejigged back row sees Carl Fearns shift to number eight, with Matt Garvey coming in at blindside flanker and Francois Louw remaining at openside. 

Meanwhile, for Sale there are three changes to last week's side which lost to Leicester Tiger

Director of Rugby for the Sharks, Steve Diamond, has made three changes with Danny Cipriani, Tommy Taylor and David Seymour coming into the starting XV.

Bath are 1/4 favourites with BetBright

Form: Bath have collected ten Aviva Premiership Rugby points from the last six games – only London Welsh have scored fewer – and have tumbled from second to fifth. Just five points separate second-place Saracens from Sale in seventh and this weekend is a chance to lay down another marker before Aviva Premiership Rugby takes a short break. Bath have only lost once at home in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season, albeit that coming just two weeks ago against Northampton Saints.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Sam Burgess, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Ollie Devoto, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Nick Auterac
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Alafoti Faosiliva, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Micky Young, 22 Matt Banahan, 23 Luke Arscott  

Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Magnus Lund, 7 David Seymour, 6 Dan Braid (c), 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jonathan Mills, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Eifion Lewis Roberts

Replacements: 16 Cameron Neild, 17 James Flynn, 18 Ross Harrison, 19 Josh Beaumont, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Tom Brady

Date: Friday, March 6
Venue: The Recreation Ground, Bath
Kick-off: 19.45 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Andrew Small, Roger Baileff
TMO: Sean Davey