Bath banking on home comforts
September 23, 2010
Bath's Matt Banahan gets his side on the front foot © Getty Images
Bath return to the comfortable surroundings of The Rec on Saturday, entertaining Sale Sharks a week after their bubble was burst by a powerful Northampton performance.
The home side will want to lay down another marker in front of their home fans after beating London Irish two weeks ago but Sale will not roll over. The Sharks head into the game on a high after a late comeback saw off Harlequins in Stockport last weekend, although they will still have the words of coach Mike Brewer ringing in their ears after an undisciplined display.
Bath kissed goodbye to their unbeaten start at Franklin's Gardens last time out and questions remain over their mental strength - bouncing back this weekend would be a good way to start changing that perception.
Bath - Player to Watch: Lewis Moody's wife only gave birth on Wednesday but the former Leicester flanker will start at the Rec. Will he be already suffering the effects of those sleepless nights?
Bath - Team News: The hosts welcome back Michael Claassens, who takes over at scrum-half from the benched Mark McMillan. Duncan Bell comes into the front row for England prop David Wilson, who drops out altogether.
Sale - Player to Watch: Mark Cueto caught the eye in last weekend's win over Harlequins and the Sharks will be hoping he's his characteristically clinical self at the Rec.
Sale - Team News: Dwayne Peel returns at scrum-half, while loose-head Andrew Sheridan, hooker Aston Croall and tight-head Karena Wihongi are all recalled to the front row.
Key Battle: After starring against Leeds, Sam Vesty did not have the most productive of afternoons against Northampton. The former Leicester man will be intent on outshining opposite number Nick Macleod, who has been in fine form for the Sharks so far this season.
Trivia: Sale flier Cueto needs seven more tries this season to overhaul former team-mate Steve Hanley as the Premiership's all-time top try-scorer.
Stats: Sale have won just once at The Rec since 1998, picking up the points with a 21-9 victory in 2006.
Odds: Will Bath coast to victory? Bet365 are offering odds of 10/11 on the home side to win even with a 12-point handicap.
"We didn't execute well on Friday, and some of the decisions weren't the best, but at this time in the season, that kind of defeat can actually be beneficial to a side. It acts as a reminder, not just to keep going when the game seems lost, but also to figure out how to put ourselves in the position to win tight games." - Bath performance director Ian McGeechan
"Bath are a very strong side from the set-piece. They create a lot of damage if they get a lot of set-piece ball and if you give them space. If you don't close them down they are probably the best off-loading side in the Premiership with the likes of Hape, Abendanon and Barkley. So we need to put a powerful unit out on the park because, attacking-wise, Bath are potentially the best team in the Premiership." - Sale head coach Mike Brewer
Fantasy: Bath fullback Nick Abendanon's two tries have brought him 17 points so far in ESPN's Premiership Rugby Fantasy Game.
Prediction: Bath disappointed last weekend but they should get back to winning ways against a solid but often one-dimensional Sale side.
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