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Preview: Bath v Gloucester

28th February 2013 12:11

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Burns: Back for Gloucester

Having missed Gloucester's last five matches, fly-half Freddie Burns is back for Friday's Aviva Premiership clash with Bath at the Rec.

The 22-year-old last featured in the Amlin Challenge Cup fixture at home to Mont-de-Marsan on January 19, but has been sidelined with a knee injury ever since.

However, after a patient period of rehabilitation, Burns is back as director of rugby Nigel Davies makes just three changes to his starting line-up.

Mike Tindall returns in midfield, and will skipper Gloucester against his former club, while Nick Wood is named at loosehead instead of Dan Murphy.

Welcoming back Burns to the starting line-up is an obvious boost for Davies, a fact he readily acknowledges, but he also praised the recent contribution of Ryan Mills.

"Freddie wasn't far away last week, but he's firing on all cylinders and it's great to have him back. He's a very chirpy character who brings a lot to the group with his energy, let alone his ability," he said.

"Ryan has been fabulous though. Coming straight back after a long injury, and not playing in his natural position. He's played in three big games for us and done a great job. He deserves a lot of credit for what he's been able to do."

Meanwhile, Bath welcome back Paul James, David Wilson, Francois Louw and Matt Banahan for this derby clash.

Test props Paul James and David Wilson, released by Wales and England respectively, come back into the front-row either side of hooker Rob Webber, whilst Dominic Day and Dave Attwood continue their tough, impactful combination in the second row.

Francois Louw returns to the blindside flank and skippers the side, meaning Carl Fearns switches to the openside as Ben Skirving continues at number eight.

A mix of experience and youth is selected in the half-backs, with 98 times capped Peter Stringer linking up with Tom Heathcote once more.

Flyer Tom Biggs takes his place on the left wing, with the exceedingly robust Horacio Agulla on the right.

The bulldozing Matt Banahan returns to the midfield to join Kyle Eastmond in the centres, with Nick Abendanon completing the line-up at full-back.

Form: It's Round 17 of the Aviva Premiership, and the final round in this block of matches. And, as has been the case for several weeks now, the table is incredibly congested. Gloucester currently occupy fourth place in the table, while Bath are in seventh. However, only seven points separate the two sides. Honours are even so far this season. Gloucester won the Premiership meeting at Kingsholm, whereas Bath won the recent LV= Cup encounter.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Carl Fearns, 6 Francois Louw (c), 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Dominic Day, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Mat Gilbert, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Sam Vesty, 23 Semsea Rokoduguni.

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Mike Tindall (c), 11 Jonny May, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Tom Savage, 5 Will James, 4 Lua Lokotui, 3 Rupert Harden, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Peter Buxton, 20 Andy Hazell, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Ryan Mills, 23 Martyn Thomas.

Date: Friday, March 1
Venue: The Rec
Kick-off: 20:00
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant referees: Stuart Terheege, Ashley Rowden
Television match official: Geoff Warren

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