Gloucester Rugby v Bath Rugby Preview

Matt Banahan returns for Bath Rugby tomorrow as they travel to Kingsholm to take on Gloucester Rugby in the West Country derby.

In his last two appearances at the Rec, Banahan has scored a remarkable seven tries, including a hat trick against Top 4 rivals Northampton Saints two weeks ago, and will be looking to continue this rich run of form at Kingsholm on Saturday.

Joining Banahan on the wing is flyer Tom Biggs, who has been no stranger to the try line himself this season. Jack Cuthbert switches to full back, with Ben Williams joining Olly Barkley in the centres. South African duo Butch James and Michael Claassens continue their partnership at half back.

Up front, the front row trio of David Flatman, Lee Mears and Duncan Bell join up once again, with Stuart Hooper and Danny Grewcock completing the front five. Ben Skirving, Man of the Match against Exeter Chiefs last weekend, once again links up with Simon Taylor and captain Luke Watson at the back of the scrum.

Director of Rugby, Sir Ian McGeechan, knows what a tough test the in-form Gloucester will be, but believes Bath are more than up to the challenge.

“Tomorrow is a big game, but that’s the pressure of the Premiership at the moment. We got a good win down at Exeter, and now we are coming up against another in-form side at Kingsholm.

“Gloucester are a side who always play well at home. They have a good pack of forwards, some talented backs and they are well coached. We are going to have to be on top of our game to come away with a win, but we’ve gone away from home and done very well, especially since the New Year, so we know we are capable of getting the result we want.

“We have shown with recent games that we can play whichever way the game evolves, so we are a tough side to beat now, which is what we want to be.

“We have a great defensive base that we’ve been working on, and Brad Davis (Defence and Skills coach) should take a lot of credit for the way we have been playing when we don’t have the ball as it’s been key in getting us where we are at the moment.

“We’ve not given soft tries or points away, which is very important, and we have managed to win three away games with one score, so if we can do that again this weekend, it will put us in a very good position.”

Gloucester Rugby have won their last eight encounters in all competitions, but have not won nine in succession since 2002. Gloucester are unbeaten in their last 15 Premiership matches at Kingsholm since Wasps won there on 24 October 2009.

Bath Rugby have lost just one of their last nine games in all competitions: 19-26 to Biarritz in the European Cup on 22 January. Bath have won their last three matches played away from The Rec.

Bath’s only victory in their last six clashes with Gloucester was 24-8 at The Rec on 27 December 2009; they have not won at Kingsholm in the Premiership since 25 February 2006.

Gloucester Rugby Head Coach Bryan Redpath had made five changes to the side that defeated Northampton Saints last weekend as his side welcome local rivals Bath Rugby to Kingsholm on Saturday.

Both sides are on a tear at the moment. Gloucester have won eight in a row in all competitions while Bath have only lost one of their past nine games. So, something has to give.

This recent form has seen the two sides move into third and fourth place respectively in the Aviva Premiership table with Gloucester just four points ahead of the men from the Rec.

Gloucester took the spoils in the first meeting between the two sides with an 18-3 win at the Rec back in October and will be seeking to complete the double over their near rivals.

Charlie Sharples returns having missed out on the Northampton trip due to injury while Henry Trinder replaces Tim Molenaar at outside centre.

The two Lawsons, Rory and Scott, are back from international duty with Scotland and come in at scrum half

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