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Preview: Gloucester v Bath

04th March 2011 08:45

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Matt Banahan Bath

Winging it: Banahan's back for Bath

Matt Banahan returns for Bath as they travel to Kingsholm to take on Gloucester in the West Country derby.

In his last two appearances at the Rec, Banahan has scored a remarkable seven tries, including a hat-trick against top four rivals Northampton two weeks ago, and will be looking to continue this rich run of form on Saturday.

Joining Banahan on the wing is flyer Tom Biggs, who has been no stranger to the tryline himself this season. Jack Cuthbert switches to full-back, with Ben Williams joining Olly Barkley in the centres. South African duo Butch James and Michael Claassens continue their partnership at half-back.

Up front, the front row trio of David Flatman, Lee Mears and Duncan Bell join up once again, with Stuart Hooper and Danny Grewcock completing the front five. Ben Skirving - man of the match against Exeter Chiefs last weekend - once again links up with Simon Taylor and captain Luke Watson at the back of the scrum.

Director of Rugby, Sir Ian McGeechan, knows what a tough test the in-form Gloucester will be, but believes Bath are more than up to the challenge.

"Tomorrow is a big game, but that's the pressure of the Premiership at the moment. We got a good win down at Exeter, and now we are coming up against another in-form side at Kingsholm," he said.

"Gloucester are a side who always play well at home. They have a good pack of forwards, some talented backs and they are well coached.

"We are going to have to be on top of our game to come away with a win, but we've gone away from home and done very well, especially since the New Year, so we know we are capable of getting the result we want.

"We have shown with recent games that we can play whichever way the game evolves, so we are a tough side to beat now, which is what we want to be."

Meanwhile, Gloucester coach Bryan Redpath has made five changes to the side that defeated the Saints last weekend.

Gloucester have won eight in a row in all competitions while Bath have only lost one of their past nine games. So, something has to give.

This recent form has seen the two sides move into third and fourth place respectively in the Aviva Premiership table with Gloucester just four points ahead of the men from the Rec.

Gloucester took the spoils in the first meeting between the two sides with an 18-3 win at the Rec back in October and will be seeking to complete the double over their near rivals.

Charlie Sharples returns having missed out on the Northampton trip due to injury while Henry Trinder replaces Tim Molenaar at outside centre.

The two Lawsons, Rory and Scott, are back from international duty with Scotland and come in at scrum-half and hooker and the final change sees Andy Hazell named at openside after illness.

After a recent run of testing fixtures, the clash with Bath is perhaps the toughest encounter in recent weeks and Redpath knows his side will have to be on their mettle:

"We've got to focus on our jobs and on what we can control. We can't control what Bath do all week and what their mindset is coming into the game," he said.

"But we can certainly control our own thoughts and mind process and that's got to be strong for us.

"That win at Rec has no relevance to this weekend. We've got to get our stuff right. That night was great for everyone involved. We held the field position well that evening and got rewards for it.

"It'll be the same challenge this weekend. We've got to be strong, we've got to be disciplined. They've got a big attacking threat and have always had a good set piece so it's a proper challenge on Saturday. It's a big game."

The teams:

Gloucester: 15 Olly Morgan, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 Tom Voyce, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Rory Lawson, 8 Luke Narraway (c), 7 Andy Hazell, 6 Peter Buxton, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Will James, 3 Paul Doran-Jones, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Olivier Azam, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Rupert Harden, 19 Alex Brown, 20 Alasdair Strokosch, 21 Jordi Pasqualin, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Tim Molenaar.

Bath: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Matt Banahan, 13 Ben Williams, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Luke Watson (c), 6 Ben Skirving, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 Duncan Bell, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 David Barnes, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Sam Vesty, 23 Nick Scott.

Date: Saturday, March 5
Kick-off: 13:00
Venue: Kingsholm
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Stuart Terheege, Peter Huckle
TMO: Trevor Fisher

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