Preview: Saracens v Bath

Date published: January 8 2012

Saracens welcome Bath to Vicarage Road on Sunday for what will be the 2,000th match in Premiership Rugby history.

Saracens welcome Bath to Vicarage Road on Sunday for what will be the 2,000th match in Premiership Rugby history.

Bath were Newcastle Falcons' opponents when the first Premiership match took place on 23rd August 1997 and they will be involved once again when the competition reaches the milestone.

In team news ahead of the game, David Strettle returns to the Saracens side after missing last week's clash against Gloucester through injury while Charlie Hodgson, Ben Spencer, John Smit and Ernst Joubert come into the starting XV.

“Bath travel to Watford on the back of an impressive victory over London Irish last weekend,” said Director of Rugby Mark McCall.

“That result proved what we already knew and that is Bath are a club with a very talented squad who can score points from all areas of the pitch. It means that, as always, our effort levels will have to be at their maximum and with players like Stephen Donald and Olly Barkley in the Bath team; we must maintain our impressive levels of discipline.”

Jamie George, Peter Stringer and James Short are among those named on the bench while Schalk Brits misses the game with a shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, Bath have named an unchanged starting line-up Sunday from that which defeated London Irish on New Year's Day.

The only change to the squad comes on the bench, where there is a welcome return for hooker Pieter Dixon.

Form: Saracens are unbeaten in their last five matches in all competitions, whilst they have been defeated just once at Vicarage Road in Aviva Premiership Rugby since February 2010 when Bath were the visitors. Bath's unwanted five game losing streak ended with their 30-3 victory at home to London Irish on New Year's Day. Bath have lost four in a row on the road since their 13-12 win against the Exiles at Madejski Stadium in the Premiership on 29 October. Saracens have won their last three encounters with Bath, whilst Bath's solitary Premiership victory at Vicarage Road since 2003 was 16-14 on 28 February 2010.

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The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Owen Farrell, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 John Smit, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Petrus du Plessis, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 George Kruis, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Adam Powell, 23 James Short.

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Francois Louw (c), 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Ryan Caldwell, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Ross Batty. 1 Nathan Catt.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Charlie Beech, 18 David Wilson, 19 Ben Skirving, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Kyle Eastmond.

Date: Sunday, January 8
Venue: Vicarage Road
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gauzere