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Preview: Bath v Sale Sharks

02nd December 2011 12:41

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Matt Banahan Bath Rugby 2011

Matt Banahan: Returns to Bath's starting line-up

Bath centres Olly Barkley and Matt Banahan return to the starting XV for Saturday's Aviva Premiership clash with Sale Sharks.

Olly Woodburn and Nick Abendanon line up outside them on the wings, with Jack Cuthbert coming in at fullback.

Tom Heathcote starts at fly-half, and resumes his half-back partnership with Michael Claassens.

Up front, David Flatman and David Wilson pack down either side of Will Tanner at hooker, with Stuart Hooper and Ryan Caldwell adding power from the second row.

Josh Ovens makes his first appearance for Bath this season in the back row, slotting into the blindside position, with Guy Mercer and Simon Taylor completing the line-up.

On the bench, USA Eagles hooker, Chris Biller, could make his first appearance for the club after being signed on a short-term contract, with James Tyas also in line to make his first appearance for the senior side.

Tom Biggs (hand), Stephen Donald (hip), Lewis Moody (shoulder) and Mark McMillan (knee) are all unavailable for selection due to injury.

Meanwhile, Sale Sharks have made three changes to their run-on side.

Mark Cueto has recovered from illness and appears on the right wing and Tony Buckley and Richie Vernon start at prop and flanker respectively.

Sale's executive director of sport Steve Diamond is optimistic about his team's chances.

"Bath is a very difficult place to go, but if we look after our defence and get it rock solid, then we can get some joy there," he said.

"We want the players to buy into our defence and to make it aggressive. Bath are a side who score a lot of tries but we can compete with them.

"After our Exeter defeat, what is certain is that it won't need Steve Diamond or Tony Hanks to motivate the team this weekend," added Diamond.

Form: Bath Rugby have slipped to three defeats in their last four games of Aviva Premiership Rugby. Bath have lost only once at the Rec since September: 13-26 to table topping Harlequins on 5 November. Sale Sharks' solo victory in their last seven matches in all competitions came at home to La Vila in the European Challenge Cup on 18 November. The Sharks have won just once on the road in the Premiership since October 2010: 29-18 at Wasps on 17 September. Bath have taken eight of their last nine encounters with Sale in all competitions, with the Sharks' solitary win in that time being 23-16 at Edgeley Park on 27 March 2009. Sale's only win at the Rec since 1998 was on 2 January 2006.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Nick Abendanon, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Josh Ovens, 5 Ryan Caldwell, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Will Tanner, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Chris Biller, 17 Charlie Beech, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 James Tyas, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Dan Hipkiss, 23 Sam Vesty.

Sale Sharks: Sharks: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou (c), 11 Joaquin Tuculet, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Andy Powell, 7 David Seymour, 6 Richie Vernon, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Vadim Cobilas, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Onosa'i Auva'a, 21 Cillian Willis, 22 Tasesa Lavea, 23 Will Addison.

Date: Saturday, December 3
Venue: Recreation Ground.
Kick-off: 14:15 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle

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Sale vs London Welsh14:00
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