Planet Rugby

Preview: Bath v Saracens

27th February 2014 10:30

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George Ford passing at England training

Facing off: Goode and Ford

Bath have made seven changes to their starting side for Friday's Aviva Premiership meeting with Saracens.

In the pack, Ross Batty is joined in the front-row by Paul James and Anthony Perenise, and Dave Attwood returns from England duty to partner Dominic Day in the engine room.

Francois Louw captains the side from the openside flank as Alafoti Fa'osiliva comes in for the injured Matt Garvey.

Peter Stringer and George Ford are both recalled to the starting line-up to renew their half-back partnership, with Matt Banahan the only other change to the back line, who replaces Horacio Agulla on the wing.

Meanwhile for Saracens, England international winger David Strettle will make his 100th appearance for the club, with the Premiership's leading try scorer returning to the starting XV after being rested for the 23-10 win against Exeter.

Strettle replaces Chris Ashton (rested) on the right wing, with Chris Wyles retaining his place on the left wing. Alex Goode returns to the side at full-back to make up the back three.

Elsewhere in the backs, Joel Tomkins retains his place in the Saracens midfield after the outside centre started his first game for Saracens in 16 weeks last weekend - he is partnered by Brad Barritt.

In the halves, Charlie Hodgson and Neil de Kock starts at outside half and scrum half respectively, in a half-back pairing that has made 345 Premiership appearances between them.

In the pack, lock forward Steve Borthwick returns to the side as captain to face his old club - he is partnered by George Kruis in the second row.

In the front row, Mako Vunipola replaces Richard Barrington with Schalk Brits and James Johnston continuing at hooker and tighthead prop.

Jacques Burger wears the number seven shirt as Kelly Brown takes his place on the Saracens replacements bench. Jackson Wray and Ernst Joubert complete the back-row.

Form: Bath have won their last seven matches in all competitions since drawing 247-all at Leicester in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 5th January. Bath are one of only two sides to have a 100 percent winning record at home this season, the other being Northampton. Saracens only defeat in their last nine Premiership encounters since October was 13-22 at home to London Irish in round 13. Saracens are the second best away side in the Premiership this season behind Northampton with their only defeat on the road being inflicted by the Saints. Saracens have won their last seven fixtures against Bath since Bath won 16-14 at Vicarage Road on 28th February 2010. Sarries have been victorious on their last four trips to the Rec.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Francois Louw (c), 6 Alafoti Fa'osiliva, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Dominic Day, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Eusebio Guinazu, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Ryan Caldwell, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Micky Young, 22 Gavin Henson, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 George Kruis, 4 Steve Borthwick, 3 James Johnston, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Eoin Sheriff, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Marcelo Bosch.

Date: Friday 28th February
Venue: The Rec
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Luke Pearce (Eng)
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Paul Dix (both Eng)
TMO: Geoff Warren (Eng)

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