Preview: Bath v Wasps

Date published: March 3 2017

Bath will welcome back international trio Luke Charteris, Taulupe Faletau and Anthony Watson for the visit of Wasps to the Recreation Ground.

Watson, who has been away with the England squad for the SixNations returns to take his place on the left wing, with Semesa Rokoduguni on the right and Tom Homer continuing at full-back.

Max Clark will link up with Ben Tapuai in the midfield, whilst Chris Cook and Adam Hastings form a new half-back combination against the Premiership leaders.

After featuring for Wales against Scotland on Saturday, Faletau is back in domestic action at number eight, with Tom Ellis and David Denton completing the back row. Faletau’s compatriot Charteris is also back in the fold as the Welsh international lines up alongside captain Charlie Ewels in the second row.

The front three of Nathan Catt, Ross Batty and Max Lahiff will be looking to assert their authority on the scrum, as the team look to maintain their place in the top four.

Former Osprey Kristian Phillips, who is on trial with the club, could make his first appearance from the replacements.

Director of Rugby, Todd Blackadder, said: “I’ve been really impressed with the way the squad has responded after last week. There has been a real intensity and focus in training, which I’ve no doubt they’ll bring to the game tomorrow.

“Wasps have been in really good form this season, but we’ve shown that we can mix it with the best in the competition and I know we have what it takes match them across the park.

“Unfortunately, we’ve lost Rhys to a pec injury, but we’re hoping that he’ll be back in the frame in a few weeks. However, it presents an opportunity for Adam to show what he can do at 10 and I’m sure he’ll be looking to make the most of it.”

Meanwhile, Dan Robson is set to make his 50th Wasps appearance for the club, primed to enter the action from the bench, while Ashley Johnson will make his 100th Premiership appearance.

The starting line-up sees just one change following last weekend’s win against Gloucester, with the injury to Kyle Eastmond resulting in Jimmy Gopperth moving back to inside centre and Alapati Leiua wearing the 13 shirt.

Guy Armitage comes onto the bench to take the spot vacated by Leiua’s move to the starting XV.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, Director of Rugby Dai Young said: “I’m sure we will face a bit of a reaction from Bath after their loss to Bristol, which you’d imagine would’ve been a game they expected to win.

“Any team can beat any other in this league, as both Bath and we have already learned this season, and we are expecting them to be at their best when we go down to the Rec this Saturday, with a passionate crowd behind them.

“It’s an important game for both sides given the positions in the table. They will be determined to come away with the points and we also know that if we can get a result, we would be sitting in a strong position with only five games left to play. Bath are a real quality team, with some great players, and we know we’ll have to be at our best.”

Form: Bath’s only two victories in the last six rounds of Premiership Rugby were in their two most recent home games, against Northampton and Harlequins. Bath have lost just once at the Recreation Ground in Premiership Rugby since last April: 11-17 to Exeter Chiefs on 31st December. Wasps have lost just once in the last eight rounds of Premiership Rugby: 28-34 at Sale in round 15. Wasps have not won away from home since they visited Zebre in the European Champions Cup on 22nd January. Wasps only defeat in their last five Premiership Rugby encounters against Bath was 26-39 at the Recreation Ground in January 2015. Wasps have won on their last two visits to Bath’s citadel in all tournaments, but have never won three in a row at the venue in the professional era.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Max Clark, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Anthony Watson, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 David Denton, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Charlie Ewels (c), 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Will Homer, 22 Rory Jennings, 23 Kristian Phillips

Wasps: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Alapati Leiua, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Willie Le Roux, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Alex Rieder, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Matt Mullan (c)
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Guy Armitage, 23 Josh Bassett

Date: Saturday, March 4
Venue: Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell, Simon McConnell
TMO: David Sainsbury