Preview: Bath v Gloucester

Date published: February 4 2016

Bath club captain Stuart Hooper will return to his team’s starting XV for their local derby against Premiership rivals Gloucester on Friday.

Hooper partners Wales international Dominic Day in the second row for one of rugby’s oldest rivalries.

The back row of Matt Garvey, Francois Louw and Leroy Houston is unchanged from the meeting with Saracens. Only hooker Rob Webber remains from that starting front row, joined this week by Max Lahiff and David Wilson.

Dan Bowden, who made his Club debut last Saturday at inside centre, moves to fly-half, as scrum-half Chris Cook makes his tenth start of the season. Kyle Eastmond returns at inside centre with Matt Banahan partnering him in the midfield.

Tom Homer, Bath’s try-scorer last weekend, is named at fullback in an unchanged back three alongside wings Horacio Agulla and Semesa Rokoduguni.

Meanwhile, John Afoa returns to Gloucester’s starting line-up  as one of three changes to the side that started against Leicester last weekend.

Afoa will make his first appearance on 2016 having injured his calf against Harlequins in Big Game 8 at Twickenham on December 27. He replaces Paul Doran-Jones.

Other changes see Steve McColl move to the left wing from full-back to replace David Halaifonua, with Bath-born Billy Burns taking over the 15 shirt. And, in the second row, Mariano Galarza comes in for Jeremy Thrush.

Aside from the usual question of local bragging rights, both teams come into this game bristling at having squandered decent leads last weekend – Gloucester were 12-0 up at home to Tigers while Bath led 13-0 at Saracens at half time before going down 13-19.

Previewing the game with the local media this week, Gloucester’s Director of Rugby David Humphreys acknowledged that a tough game lies ahead,

“We all know how disappointing it was to lose in the way we did, in the last minute,” he said.

“We’re also very conscious that it was the first game of a ten game block in the Aviva Premiership. The season doesn’t stand and fall on one defeat.

“We’ve got a huge challenge at Bath this weekend and that was a big factor in getting everyone’s minds back on the task in hand. We’re well aware of the challenge ahead.

“It’s a tough one. But, it’s probably fair to say at this stage, that every Premiership game will be tough when you see what’s at stake at both ends of the table. One or two wins takes you up and, in the same way, one or two defeats can knock you down a couple of places.

“Hugely exciting this weekend. It’s a game that everyone you meet looks forward to and we’ve got a great chance to bounce back from Saturday.”

Form: Bath Rugby have slipped to five straight defeats in all competitions, their worst run since season 2011/12. Bath’s only victory in the last five rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby was 21-14 at home to Worcester on 27th December. Gloucester Rugby have won just one of their last four Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters: 27-14 at home to London Irish on 2nd January whilst their only victory on the road in the tournament since early January 2015 was 39-27 at Newcastle in the opening round this campaign. Bath have won their last five Aviva Premiership Rugby fixtures against Gloucester since the Cherry and Whites 16-10 win at Kingsholm in October 2012. Gloucester have not been victorious at the Recreation Ground in the tournament since February 2012.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Max Lahiff.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Tom Ellis, 21 Alafoti Faosiliva, 22 Niko Matawalu, 23 Max Clark.

Gloucester: 15 Billy Burns, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Bill Meakes, 12Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Steve McColl, 10 James Hook, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Nick Wood, 18 Nicky Thomas, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Ross Moriarty.

Date: Friday, February 5
Venue: Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson, Simon McConnell
TMO: Sean Davey