Bath Rugby v London Wasps Premiership Preview

Bath Rugby hooker Lee Mears will make his 250th appearance for the Club against London Wasps tomorrow at the Recreation Ground for their first home game of the 2012/13 Aviva Premiership season.

Mears, who has played all his club rugby with the West Country side, has 42 caps for England and toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2009. He retired from international rugby this summer.

He will scrum down alongside Nathan Catt and David Wilson, with Stuart Hooper and Dominic Day continuing their second row partnership. Simon Taylor returns from injury and replaces Francois Louw, who is on international duty with South Africa. Taylor comes in on the blindside, with Carl Fearns switching to openside and Ben Skirving starting at number 8.

Olly Barkley is named once more at fly-half, alongside half-back partner Michael Claassens.

There are no changes to the backline that faced Worcester last weekend, with Tom Biggs and Kyle Eastmond out wide on the wings, Matt Banahan and Dan Hipkiss combining in the centres and Nick Abendanon at fullback.

Head Coach, Gary Gold, said; “To make 250 appearances for a club is a great achievement in professional rugby, and it’s a testament both to Lee’s ability and his attitude as a player that he has reached it, as well as appearing for his country and the Lions.

“Whilst we were pleased with the eventual result at Sixways last weekend, we were very frustrated to not perform the way we know we can and have in pre-season.

“Dai Young has done some excellent work at Wasps, and they will be looking to bounce straight back from the result against Quins. They outplayed the champions for large periods of the game, so we know they with challenge us all over the park, and it is a challenge we must rise to.”

Bath won a 24-23 thriller at Worcester on Saturday with Olly Barkley kicking the winning penalty in the last minute, in a game where the lead changed hands four times in the last 13 minutes!

London Wasps scored five tries but still lost to Harlequins at Twickenham on Saturday, and have now slipped to four straight Aviva Premiership Rugby defeats.

Wasps’ only away win in the Premiership since round one last season came at Worcester in late October.

Both encounters last season went with home field advantage, whilst the Londoners have actually won on three of their last five visits to The Rec.

Meanwhile Chris Bell makes his return in the London Wasps side which shows two changes.

Bell is a direct replacement for Italian centre Andrea Masi who hasn’t quite recovered from a leg injury picked up at Twickenham last weekend, while England lock Tom Palmer replaces Joe Launchbury, who shifts to the bench.

Bell made a huge impact for Wasps in the first few months of last season in the midfield only to succumb in November to an Achilles injury which saw him forced to sit out the remainder of the campaign. He joins his younger brother Tommy in the squad, who is named on the bench.

Elsewhere Charlie Davies replaces Nic Berry as scrum-half back-up.

Director of Rugby Dai Young says: “Chris has worked incredibly hard to get back fit for this season and his return is a boost to us. We’re very wary of the challenge we’re going to face at Bath. They are a physical side and we need to match that if we’re to get any sort of result down there.”

Match : Bath Rugby v London Wasps
Date : Saturday 8th September
Venue : Recreation Ground,
Kick Off : 2.15pm
Live on: ESPN HD
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth (50th Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Terheege, Paul Burton.
TMO: Geoff Warren.



15. Nick Abendanon,14. Kyle Eastmond,13. Dan Hipkiss,12. Matt Banahan,11. Tom Biggs

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