Planet Rugby

Preview: Saracens v Bath

20th September 2013 10:39

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Alex Goode of Saracens runs with the ball during the Heineken Cup

Returns: Alex Goode

Saracens and England full-back Alex Goode will start his first game of the Aviva Premiership season when Bath visit Allianz Park this Sunday.

Goode takes over from Chris Wyles, who moves to outside centre while prop Mako Vunipola and hooker Schalk Brits also start the game.

George Kruis come into the team, replacing Alastair Hargreaves who drops to the bench. Scotland captain Kelly Brown and scrum-half Neil De Kock have been named on the bench, both returning from injury.

Fresh from their second successive bonus point win last weekend, Director of Rugby Mark McCall explains how Saracens will have to be at their best.

"Bath have enjoyed a good start to the season with two wins from their opening two games against Newcastle Falcons and Leicester Tigers. During the summer they added to what was already a very strong squad and they have a very experienced coaching team, so we will have to be at our best," he said.

"We have also won both our opening games and last week against Gloucester, we were patient and we did the right things at the right times and it was a pleasing performance, but our aim is to continue to improve each week."

Meanwhile, Martin Roberts and Alafoti Fa'osiliva will make their first starts for Bath on Sunday.

Roberts links up with Tom Heathcote in an all-international half-back pairing, with the fly-half also making his first appearance of the season.

In the backs, Tom Biggs comes on to the left wing with Semesa Rokoduguni continuing on the right, and Anthony Watson is named at full-back. Gavin Henson continues at inside centre, with Bath stalwart Matt Banahan, who is making his 100th Premiership appearance, shifting to partner him in the midfield.

Fa'osiliva starts on the blindside flank, with Guy Mercer and Leroy Houston on the openside and at number eight respectively. Dominic Day is chosen to partner captain Stuart Hooper in the engine room, whilst Anthony Perenise switches sides to pack down on the loosehead with Rob Webber and David Wilson completing the front-row.

Form: Saracens have made the perfect start to the new season, claiming two bonus point wins, whilst the only other side to have begun a season with three maximum point hauls was Harlequins in 2012/13. Saracens have lost just one of their last 21 home fixtures, played at eight different venues, in all competitions: 13- 27 to Northampton in last season's Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final at Allianz Park. Bath Rugby won at Newcastle in round 1 and beat Leicester in round 2, but have not begun a Premiership campaign with three successive victories since 2003/04. Saracens have beaten Bath on their last six fixtures, since the West Countrymen's 16-14 victory at Vicarage Road in February 2010.

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Chris Wyles, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 David Strettle; 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Billy Vunipola, 5 George Kruis, 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 James Johnston, 19 Alastair Hargreaves, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Neil De Kock, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Ben Ransom.

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Alafoti Fa'osiliva, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (capt), 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Anthony Perenise.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Paul James, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Matt Garvey, 21 Micky Young, 22 George Ford, 23 Jonathan Joseph.

Date: Sunday, September 22
Kick-off: 14:00 BST
Venue: Allianz Park
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Nigel Carrick, Stuart Terheege
Television match official: David Sainsbury

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