Preview: Bath v Saracens

Date published: March 31 2016

Dave Attwood will make his first Bath appearance since December on Friday when his team takes on Saracens at the Recreation Ground.

Attwood is partnered in the second-row by Charlie Ewels, with the front-row trio of Nathan Catt, Rob Webber and Henry Thomas continuing following the victory against Gloucester last time out. 

Amanaki Mafi returns to the starting line-up at number eight, flanked by Matt Garvey and Francois Louw.

Chris Cook and George Ford continue to pull the strings from the half-backs, as Ollie Devoto and Jonathan Joseph resume their midfield partnership.

Last weekend's double try-scorer Semesa Rokoduguni – who has beaten the most defenders in the Premiership this season – starts on the right wing with Horacio Agulla coming onto the left, and Anthony Watson is at full-back.

Meanwhile, Saracens welcome back Chris Ashton into their squad, with the England flyer named on the right wing after serving a ten-week suspension.

Ashton, who last played for Saracens in their European Rugby Champions Cup clash against Ulster in January, will line up in the Saracens back-three alongside Alex Goode (full-back) and Duncan Taylor (left wing). Chris Wyles is rested.

Marcelo Bosch partners skipper Brad Barritt in the Saracens midfield, with Owen Farrell continuing at fly-half after a Man of the Match performance last weekend. Richard Wigglesworth starts at scrum-half with Neil De Kock named amongst the replacements.

Up front, Schalk Brits starts at hooker with Mako Vunipola (loosehead prop) and Petrus Du Plessis (tighthead prop) also named in the Saracens front-row. At lock, England pair Maro Itoje and George Kruis will partner each other in the heart of the Saracens engine room.

Openside flanker Will Fraser continues in the back-row and joins Billy Vunipola (number eight) and Michael Rhodes (blindside flanker) to make up Saracens’ loose forward triumvirate.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: “Bath are in good form having picked up some results as of late. We know that they possess some very good players who are capable of winning big games. I’m sure that once again we can expect a fiercely contested clash at The Rec.

“Chris’ attitude has been really good. He has worked hard on his game throughout the ten-week period and I know he is itching to get out there playing once again.

"He was in great form before the suspension came along and he's going to provide something different to our team with his X-factor. We’re looking forward to seeing him back out on the pitch on Friday.”

Form: Bath’s only defeat in the last four rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby came at Harlequins on 11 March. Bath have won their last two games at the Recreation Ground, against London Irish and Newcastle Falcon but have yet to win three in a row at the venue this season. Saracens returned to the top of the Premiership table with their victory over Exeter Chiefs, but four sides have tallied more league points in the last six rounds than Sarries. Saracens only two away defeats this season have been at Harlequins in round 9 and at Leicester in rRound 17. Saracens have lost just one of their last dozen Premiership encounters with Bath including last season’s final – 11-23 at the Recreation Ground in October 2014.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 George Ford, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Francois Louw (c), 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Nathan Catt 
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 David Wilson, 19 Leroy Houston, 20 David Denton, 21 Guy Mercer, 22 Will Homer, 23 Rhys Priestland

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Duncan Taylor, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola 
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Neil De Kock, 22 Mike Ellery, 23 Ben Ransom

Date: Fiday, April 1
Venue: The Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 19:45 local, (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Gregory Garner
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell, Paul Dix
TMO: Graham Hughes