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Preview: Leinster v Bath

16th December 2011 12:26

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Bath: Second shot against Leinster

Bath take on defending Heineken Cup champions Leinster for the second time in two weeks at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Bath, who last qualified for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup in 2009, need to return home to the West country with a victory from their trip to Dublin if they are to keep their hopes of qualification alive.

The Irish province have an impressive home record and have won their last eight games in Dublin in the tournament, while Bath have lost their last three away games in Europe.

The Dubliners, who were crowned European champions last season, came home with a 18-13 away win from the Recreation Ground in the first clash of the double-header between the sides.

Bath have named a virtually unchanged side to travel to Dublin as they prepare to make up for last week's defeat.

David Flatman, Chris Biller and David Wilson continue in the front row, with Dave Attwood and Ryan Caldwell combining in the second row. Bath captain Francois Louw returns at blindside, with Guy Mercer at openside and Simon Taylor at number eight completing the pack.

Michael Claassens and Stephen Donald continue to form their half-back partnership.

The only change to the starting XV comes in the backs, where Dan Hipkiss is ruled out with a knock picked up last week. Matt Banahan shifts from the wing to outside centre, with Nick Abendanon moving to the wing and Sam Vesty coming in at full-back.

There is a welcome return to the bench for Ross Batty and Ben Williams who both come back into the squad following injuries.

Leinster will know a win over Bath would secure their position at the top of Pool 3 and put them in the driving seat for a Heineken Cup quarter-finals place.

There are a few changes to the Leinster team with Eoin Reddan partnering Jonathan Sexton at half back and Shane Jennings coming into the back row alongside fellow Ireland internationals Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip.

Devin Toner partners another Ireland international, skipper Leo Cullen, at second row.

Luke Fitzgerald continues in the back three alongside Rob Kearney and Isa Nacewa.

Meanwhile, Eoin O'Malley (who will make his 40th Leinster appearance on Saturday) forms a centre partnership with Fergus McFadden for the first time in the Heineken Cup.

Gordon D'Arcy, limited by a minor niggle in training earlier this week, will provide extra firepower from a replacements bench which includes six Ireland internationals.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Isa Nacewa, 13 Eoin O'Malley, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke Van Der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Nathan White, 19 Kevin McLaughlin, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Gordon D'Arcy.

Bath: 15 Sam Vesty, 14 Jack Cuthbert, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Nick Abendanon, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Francois Louw (c), 5 Ryan Caldwell, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 David Wilson, 2 Chris Biller, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Andy Beattie, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Ben Williams.

Date: Saturday, 17 December
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 18:00 GMT
Referee: Romain Poite

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