Preview: Northampton v Bath

Date published: September 26 2014

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Bath have been forced to make two changes to the starting line-up from the team that hammered Leicester for Saturday’s trip to Northampton Saints.

The current Aviva Premiership leaders travel to the defending champions fresh from an incredible 45-0 win over the Tigers, and will be looking to maintain their perfect start to the campaign.

Carl Fearns and Matt Banahan are both ruled out through injury, with Alafoti Fa’osiliva and Olly Woodburn taking their places.

Woodburn lines up on the opposite wing to Semesa Rokoduguni, who has scored a try in each appearance this season.

Luke Arscott remains at full-back, with the electric duo of Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph linking up in the midfield. Chris Cook and George Ford continue their partnership in the half-backs.

Fa’osiliva comes in on the blindside flank to join up with Guy Mercer and Leroy Houston, as Stuart Hooper and Dave Attwood combine in the engine room. The scrum is completed by the powerful front row of Paul James, Rob Webber and David Wilson.

On the bench, should Charlie Ewels be called into action, the academy lock will make his first senior appearance in the Blue, Black and White.

For Saints there are returns to the team for Stephen Myler and Tom Wood, who were both missing away at Newcastle.

Alex Corbisiero also comes into the team for what should be a mouthwatering battle up front with David Wilson.

Saints were devastating in their only home game so far this campaign, hammering Gloucester 53-6, and a win would allow them to leapfrog Bath in the table.

Saturday’s game kicks off at the slightly later time of 3:15pm, and will be preceded by a minute’s applause to remember Luis Ghaut, who lost his battle with cancer earlier this week.

Form: Northampton Saints have lost just one Aviva Premiership Rugby match since April: 16-20 to Wasps at Adams Park on 14th September. The Saints’ solitary defeat at Franklin’s Gardens in any competition in 2014 was when Leicester were the visitors in round 18 last season. Bath top the Aviva Premiership Rugby table for the first time after a complete round since September 2011. Bath have won all three matches this season and allowed their opponents to come away with just one bonus point (London Welsh for tries in round 2). Bath’s only defeat on the road in any tournament in 2014 came when they visited Harlequins in round 22 last season. Bath have not defeated Northampton in Aviva Premiership Rugby since their fixture at The Rec in February 2011, however the two did draw 19-all at the same venue in their most recent meeting in May. Bath have not been victorious at Franklin’s Gardens for almost a decade, with their last triumph at the venue being against Saracens in a relocated game, whilst they have not beaten Saints on their own turf since April 2003.

The teams:

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark , 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 James Craig, 20 Jon Fisher, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Will Hooley, 23 James Wilson.

Bath: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Kyle Eastmond 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 George Ford, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Alafoti Fa’osiliva, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Charlie Ewels, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Gavin Henson, 23 Ollie Devoto.

Date: Saturday, September 27
Kick-off: 15:15 BST
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Andy Watson, Peter Huckle
Television match official: Rowan Kitt
Timekeeper: David Hudson
Assessor: Brian Campsall

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