Big guns back for Saracens as survival fight begins

Date published: November 28 2019

Rugby World Cup winner Francois Louw will captain Bath against a strong Saracens side at the Rec on Friday in the opening game of Round Five of the Premiership.

Louw leads the team in the absence of club captain Charlie Ewels, with the South African continuing at number eight against the champions.

Beno Obano, Tom Dunn and Will Stuart return to the starting line-up in the front-row, with Elliott Stooke partnering Josh McNally at lock.

Sam Underhill, who missed last weekend’s game at The Stoop, joins Josh Bayliss and Louw in the back-row.

Will Chudley and Rhys Priestland form a new half-back pairing, with Jamie Roberts starting at inside centre against the Premiership’s basement side.

Max Wright joins Roberts in the midfield, with Ruaridh McConnochie, Semesa Rokoduguni and Tom Homer completing the backline.

Meanwhile, three of Saracens’ England contingent will make their club comeback in the Premiership clash.

Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola will feature for the Men in Black for the first time since the conclusion of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The trio have been handed starting roles for the match at the Rec with Jamie George also earning a maiden start of the campaign.

Farrell partners Richard Wigglesworth in the half-back positions while Elliot Daly is in line for his league debut for his new club at full-back.

Sean Maitland is the only other amendment to the backline that began the victory over Ospreys in the Champions Cup, meaning a midfield of captain Brad Barritt and Duncan Taylor remains.

As does lock duo Will Skelton and George Kruis who will pack down in behind familiar props in Mako Vunipola and Titi Lamositele. Number eight Billy Vunipola’s inclusion sees Jackson Wray switch to the flank.

Form: All four of Bath’s matches in Premiership Rugby this season have been won by the home side on the day. Bath’s only defeat in their last ten home games in Premiership Rugby was 29-31 to Harlequins in round 15 last season. Saracens’ only defeat in their last six Premiership Rugby fixtures was 25-27 at home to Northampton on the opening weekend of the new season. Saracens have lost just one of their last four away games in Premiership Rugby, 29-31 at Worcester in Round 22 last season. The last six encounters between the two clubs have been won by the home side on the day whilst Saracens most recent victory at the Recreation Ground was in April 2016.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Max Wright, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Francois Louw (c), 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Josh Bayliss, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Josh McNally, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Matt Garvey, 20 Rhys Davies, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Gabe Hamer-Webb

Saracens: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jackson Wray, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Manu Vunipola, 23 Nick Tompkins

Venue: Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: JP Doyle, Anthony Woodthorpe
Television match official: David Rose