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Preview: Bath v Northampton

13th September 2012 12:27

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Courtney Lawes Northampton 2011

Back on the Saints bench: Courtney Lawes

Bath have made two changes to their starting XV for Friday's Premiership clash with Northampton at the Rec.

Paul James comes in at loosehead, with Nathan Catt switching to the bench. James joins Lee Mears and David Wilson in the front-row, with Stuart Hooper and Dominic Day continuing their partnership in the engine room. Simon Taylor, Carl Fearns and Ben Skirving complete the pack.

The other change comes in the centres, with Ben Williams coming in for the injured Matt Banahan. Williams starts at inside centre, with Dan Hipkiss outside him, as Olly Barkley and Michael Claassens are once again selected in the half-back positions. Tom Biggs and Kyle Eastmond, who both crossed the try line last weekend in the victory over Wasps, are named on the wings, with Nick Abendanon completing the line-up at 15.

With both teams unbeaten so far, coach Gary Gold knows that Friday will be a stern test for Bath.

"Northampton are a very strong side, who have made a good start to the competition. We all know about their strength in the forwards, but they also back that up with some hugely skilful backs who can attack from anywhere on the field," said Gold.

"We were pleased with the performance against Wasps, but know there is still more we can do to improve and we have been working hard on this. It's these big games that you want to be involved in - as a player and as a coach - and whilst it will be a big challenge for us tomorrow night, we are looking forward to it."

Meanwhile, England lock Courtney Lawes returns on the Northampton bench while Stephen Myler is chosen at fly-half.

Director of rugby Jim Mallinder says that Bath will provide a "big challenge" for his players.

"They have started the season very well. In Round 1 they came from a long way behind and held their nerve to win at Sixways, while against Wasps last weekend they put together some dangerous attacking moves," said Mallinder.

"The Rec is always a tough place to play. It is a place where the fans are right on top of you and where it can be intimidating for visiting teams. So it is up to us as to how we respond, and we believe that we can do that in the right way.

"At times in our first two games we have played well and scored good tries. But we have also been guilty of not finishing games off and this is something we will be looking to improve. Despite having only had a five-day turnaround between matches out training has been very positive and all of the players are determined to keep our good start to the season going this Friday."

Form: Bath have won their opening two games of the 2012/13 Aviva Premiership Rugby season, overcoming Worcester and Wasps. Bath's most recent two victories at The Rec have now both been against London Wasps. Northampton Saints have also begun with back to back victories over Gloucester and Exeter - the first time the Saints have begun a season with a pair of wins since 2004/05. Northampton have won their last three away games in the regular season. Northampton achieved the Premiership double over Bath last season, including a first victory at The Rec since 2005.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Kyle Eastmond, 13 Dan Hipkiss, 12 Ben Williams, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Olly Barkley, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Carl Fearns, 6 Simon Taylor, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Josh Ovens, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Ollie Devoto, 23 Jack Cuthbert.

Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Dom Waldouck, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Vasily Artemyev, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Rhys Oakley, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Tom Mercey, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Tom May.

Date: Friday, September 14
Venue: Recreation Ground, Bath
Kick-off: 19.45 BST (18.45 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Small

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