Preview: Bath v London Irish

Date published: March 4 2016

Bath have named their team to face London Irish in Saturday's Premiership encounter at the Rec.

Max Lahiff, Rob Webber and Henry Thomas start in the front row, bolstered in the engine room by Charlie Ewels and Dominic Day. Openside Francois Louw captains the team, in a back row also featuring blindside Matt Garvey and number eight Amanaki Mafi.

Wales fly-half Rhys Priestland returns from Six Nations duty to partner scrum-half Chris Cook in the half-backs.

Kyle Eastmond and Ollie Devoto form an exciting midfield partnership, whilst wings Matt Banahan and Semesa Rokoduguni are joined in the back three by full-back Tom Homer.

For London Irish, Alex Lewington has recovered from a broken thumb and comes in for Andrew Fenby on the wing, while Fergus Mulchrone makes way for Johnny Williams at inside centre. 

Fly-half Greig Tonks, who made the switch from Edinburgh earlier this week, is amongst the replacements.

A knee injury rules Samoan international Ofisa Treviranus out of the contest, with Rob McCusker getting the nod at number eight.

Second-row Matt Symons and blindside flanker Ian Nagle return to the pack as the Exiles vie for crucial Premiership points against a Bath outfit looking to bounce back from successive defeats.

Assistant coach Richard Whiffin said: "Bath have some big ball carriers in their ranks, which will give them a lot of go-forward upfront. Equally, they have a lot of talent in the backline with the likes of Kyle Eastmond, Semesa Rokoduguni and Matt Banahan – the names just roll off the tongue.

"We know they are a good team, but we feel that if we impose our game on them then we can certainly put them under pressure and really take it to them.

"It's great to see Alex Lewington back in the side, but it will be two or three weeks before a few of the other lads return from injury."

Form: The Exiles have won just once in any tournament in the last 12 months, beating Agen away from home in the European Challenge Cup in January. Now fighting at the bottom of Premiership rugby, they travel to Bath who have been consistently unable to rediscover their near title-winning form of last season. Bath have won just one more league game than the Exiles this term, but have collected the joint-most losing bonus points and sit ten points clear of Saturday's opponents. London Irish have not been victorious at the Rec since winning 16-0 back in November 2009, and the record books would suggest Bath are favourites with 11 wins out of 12 encounters with the Exiles over the past seven seasons.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Francois Louw (c), 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Max Lahiff
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Beno Obano, 18 David Wilson, 19 Stuart Hooper, 20 Leroy Houston, 21 Guy Mercer, 22 Jonathan Evans, 23 Horacio Agulla

London Irish: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Topsy Ojo, 10 Theo Brophy Clews, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Rob McCusker, 7 Luke Narraway (c), 6 Ian Nagle, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Smallbone
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Tom Court, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jerry Sexton, 20 Blair Cowan, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Greig Tonks, 23 Fergus Mulchrone

Date: Saturday, March 5
Venue: Recreation Ground, Bath
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Kelvin Stewart, Jonathan Healy
TMO: David Grashoff