Planet Rugby

Preview: Bath v Worcester

08th February 2013 12:32

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Christian Wade of London Wasps is tackled by Tom Biggs of Bath

On the wing: Tom Biggs

England Saxons flyers Tom Biggs and Kyle Eastmond return to the Bath starting XV on Saturday as Worcester arrive at the Recreation Ground.

Both stars return to the back-line, with Biggs on the wing and Eastmond outside Bath favourite Matt Banahan, who shifts to inside centre. Argentinean Horacio Agulla lines up on the opposite wing, with Nick Abendanon named again at full-back.

Stephen Donald and Peter Stringer continue to organise proceedings from half-back, building on their controlling performance from last weekend's epic win over Gloucester.

In the forwards, Charlie Beech and Anthony Perenise are given the nod either side of Rob Webber in the front row and Dave Attwood and Dominic Day continue their powerful partnership in the engine room. Ben Skirving is in at Number 8, with Francois Louw and Carl Fearns - fresh from a deeply impressive return from injury last weekend - flanking him.

Meanwhile, Worcester head coach Richard Hill revamps his pack for the trip to the West Country.

Hill makes a total of seven changes to the side that lost out to Saracens in the LV= Cup last weekend as Warriors resume league action.

Lock James Percival will captain the side from the second row where he is joined by Dean Schofield.

A new-look back row will see Neil Best and Sam Betty feature while Matt Kvesic is named at number eight.

Prop Matt Mullan is named at loosehead after missing last week on duty with England Saxons.

Alex Grove, fresh from his heroics with Scotland A, joins forces with Jon Clarke in midfield while the final change sees Errie Claassens take over from the injured Chris Pennell.

"Bath have got their confidence up," admitted Hill, who revealed Semisi Taulava and Chris Pennell would miss the game through injury.

"They have got to a quarter-final of the Amlin Challenge Cup and they have got to a semi-final of the LV=Cup with a really good win at Kingsholm.

"At the moment they are in a rich vein of form and flying high. I live in Bath and get the vibes and feelings from the supporters, I have even got Michael Claassens living across the road from me, so you understand the mentality they have got.

"They are high on confidence at the moment, there is no doubt about that, while we have gone through a sticky patch so we need a drastic turnaround of form.

He added: "Last week we had a disappointing build-up, but we have had key people away. Many of team are back; the likes of Dean Schofield and Sam Betty were away while Matt Mullan, Alex Grove and Matt Kvesic were on international duty.

"We have prepared well this week and for whatever game plan Bath use against us. The Rec pitch is damp so we don't expect a hard track, but we will try and play as much as we can. There is plenty of incentive for us and we are only one point below them in the league."

Form: Bath have won their last four games in all competitions, but in Aviva Premiership Rugby have managed just a solitary victory from their last six outings: 21-18 at home to table-topping Harlequins on 23 November. Worcester Warriors' only win in their last four Premiership matches was 13-6 at home to London Welsh in round eleven. The Warriors are without an away victory in the Premiership since they visited London Wasps on New Year's Day 2012. Worcester have beaten Bath just once since March 2007: 16-7 at Sixways in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 25 November 2011, whilst they have never won in eight previous visits to The Rec and have left without a point on their last five visits to the ground in all competitions.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Kyle Eastmond, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Carl Fearns, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Dominic Day, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Charlie Beech.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Mat Gilbert, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni.

Worcester: 15 Errie Claassens, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Jon Clarke, 11 David Lemi, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Sam Betty, 6 Neil Best, 5 Dean Schofield, 4 James Percival (c), 3 John Andress, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 Ceri Jones, 18 Rob O'Donnell, 19 Craig Gillies, 20 Jake Abbott, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Danny Gray, 23 Josh Matavesi.

Date: Saturday, February 9
Kick-off: 14:15
Venue: Recreation Ground
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Gareth Copsey, Andrew Pearce
Television match official: Laurie Bryant
Timekeeper: Jerry Wallis

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