Preview: Gloucester v Bath

Date published: March 25 2016

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Gloucester director of rugby David Humphreys has made seven changes to his starting line-up for Saturday's clash with Bath at Kingsholm.

Some of the changes are tactical, while some are injury enforced as the Cherry and Whites look to get back to winning ways after successive away defeats at Worcester and London Irish.

There are changes on both wings as David Halaifonua replaces the injured Charlie Sharples and Steve McColl comes in for Henry Trinder. The other new face in the back-line sees Greig Laidlaw return from Scotland duty and resume the captaincy.

In the pack, Paddy McAllister has recovered from injury and replaces Nick Wood, while Darren Dawidiuk takes over from Richard Hibbard at hooker.

Tom Savage comes in to partner Jeremy Thrush in the second row in place of Mariano Galarza and Ross Moriarty, fresh from scoring two tries for Wales on his Six Nations bow, is back at number eight.

Bath are expected to name a number of Six Nations participants in their squad, and will come to Kingsholm looking to make amends for Gloucester winning in the first meeting between the two sides this season, at the Rec back in February.

It's been a tough couple of weeks for Gloucester, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys stressed that the squad have been working hard this week in training to get back on track.

"You never focus too much on any one particular performance. We know the past two weeks haven't been as good as we would like them to be," he said.

"So, it's been a case, since we came in this week, of working in training on the things that we need to improve upon.

"There are things we know we can do better, and there are things we know we need to do better if we want to beat Bath this weekend.

"Bath have a lot of international players and they've been affected by those players being away at the World Cup and the Six Nations. They've shown what a good team they are but we also know how good a team we can be.

"Every player who represents Gloucester understands the significance of this weekend's game. We saw that massive emotional performance when we won down at the Rec a few weeks ago. That's the standard we need to produce and I've no doubt we'll get a reaction from the players this weekend."

Meanwhile, Nathan Catt will make his first start of the season for Bath. Elsewhere in the side that features 10 changes – two of which are positional – to the one that beat Newcastle Falcons last weekend, Bath will have their full complement of Grand Slam heroes on the field for their visit to Kingsholm as George Ford, Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson all start.

Loosehead Catt starts alongside Rob Webber and Henry Thomas in the front row, whilst Charlie Ewels and Dominic Day are in the boiler room. Francois Louw wears the captain’s armband on the openside, packing down in the back row with blindside Matt Garvey and number eight Leroy Houston.

Watson – joint-top try-scorer for England in the 2016 Six Nations, along with Joseph – returns at full-back, in a back three also featuring wings Semesa Rokoduguni and Matt Banahan. Ollie Devoto slots in at inside centre to partner Joseph in midfield, and fly-half Ford joins scrum-half Chris Cook in the half-backs.

Form: The Cherry and Whites have lost away at bottom club London Irish and also at struggling Worcester Warriors in successive trips in March. Their only reversal at Kingsholm in any tournament since October was 19-18 to Leicester in January. Bath's last four Premiership encounters have all gone in favour of the home side, while Mike Ford's men have only won once away in the tournament since Round 4 at Worcester in February. Gloucester beat Bath 15-11 at the Recreation Ground in February, but have not achieved a season's league double over their near rivals since 2012. Bath have been victorious on their last two visits to Kingsholm in Premiership Rugby – no visiting team has ever won three successive Premiership Rugby fixtures at the famous old ground.

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 David Halaifonua, 13 Bill Meakes, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Steve McColl, 10 James Hook, 9 Greig Laidlaw (cc), 8 Ross Moriarty 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Paddy McAllister 
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Henry Trinder

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

Date: Saturday, March 26
Venue: Kingsholm
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Gareth Copsey, Andrew Pearce
TMO: Geoffrey Warren

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