Preview: Saracens v Bath

Date published: January 29 2016

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League leaders Saracens will host Bath at Allianz Park on Saturday in round 10 of the Aviva Premiership.

Having only lost one game this season, the London outfit will be quietly confident of victory while Bath will be desperate to improve their poor log position as they currently lie ninth. This promises to be a fiercely contested encounter.

Jacques Burger returns to Premiership action for Saracens, starting his first league game since November. The Namibian loose forward will line up alongside Jackson Wray and Michael Rhodes in the Sarries back row.

Elsewhere in the Saracens pack, Richard Barrington comes into the starting XV at loosehead prop, whilst Schalk Brits recovers from a slight knock that kept the Springbok international out of Saracens' win away to Toulouse to start at hooker. Petrus Du Plessis starts at tighthead.

At lock, after being released by England coach Eddie Jones, Maro Itoje will start for Saracens and will link up with Jim Hamilton.

In the halves, the experienced duo of Richard Wigglesworth and Charlie Hodgson will pair each other at scrum-half and fly-half respectively.

Brad Barritt continues to skipper the side from inside centre and is joined by Marcelo Bosch in the Saracens midfield. Ben Ransom is named at full-back, with Scotland international Duncan Taylor available for selection to start on the right wing, with Chris Wyles named on the left wing.

Saracens director of rugby, Mark McCall said: "Our attention is solely focussed on a challenging block of Aviva Premiership games throughout the Six Nations. From the beginning of the season we knew this period of the season would be very demanding and we are confident that we have the calibre of players across the squad to thrive during this run of games.

"Bath will be a real test of where we are at squad-wise as they are a quality outfit and 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 against Mike Ford’s side."

Meanwhile, Dan Bowden makes his Bath bow at inside centre for the meeting with the reigning English champions, as Matt Banahan moves from wing to thirteen.

Rhys Priestland and Chris Cook make their third outing together in the half-backs, following successful forays in the wins against Worcester Warriors and London Irish earlier in the season.  

The back three sees the return of Tom Homer at fullback, whilst Horacio Agulla is named on the left wing alongside recent England call-up Semesa Rokoduguni at 14.

Rob Webber makes his 70th career appearance for Bath, as Nick Auterac and Henry Thomas pack down either side of the hooker. Charlie Ewels and Dominic Day are back in the second row after a strong showing against Toulon last weekend.

Francois Louw captains Bath at openside flanker, joined in the back row by Matt Garvey and Leroy Houston.

Form: Bath have won just one of their last 11 encounters with Saracens including last season's Premiership Rugby final – that was a 21-11 victory at the Rec in October 2014. And they have not been successful on Saracens soil since a trip to Vicarage Road in February 2010. Bath are reeling from a run of four losses in all competitions.

The teams: 

Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Duncan Taylor, 13 Marcelo, Bosch 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Hayden Smith, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Nick Tompkins.

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Rhys Priestland, 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 Nick Auterac.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 David Wilson, 19 Tom Ellis, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Alafoti Faosiliva, 22 Jonathan Evans, 23 Max Clark.

Date: Saturday, January 30
Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Dean Richards 
Assistant Referees: Greg Macdonald, Andy Watson 
TMO: Geoffrey Warren

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