Bath set for derby date
September 30, 2010
Olly Barkley will be back in action for Bath against his former club © Getty Images
Bath and Gloucester go head-to-head at the Recreation Ground on Friday night in the first west country derby of the new Aviva Premiership season.
Both sides will desperately want victory over their fierce rivals, particularly after confidence-boosting wins last weekend. Bath bounced back from their damaging away defeat to Northampton with a comfortable win over Sale while Nicky Robinson's massive penalty won a nail-biter against Wasps for Gloucester at Kingsholm.
Bryan Redpath's Cherry and Whites have seen concerns over their mental strength resurface in recent weeks and they will be desperate to show that they have the goods to win on the road.
Bath - Player to Watch: Olly Barkley starts at No.12 for the home side and will be on the pitch at the same time as Shontayne Hape and Mike Tindall - two of the centres preferred to him in the England squad. It almost writes itself.
Bath - Team News: It's as you were from Steve Meehan, giving Sam Vesty and Michael Claassens another shot at halfback and skipper Luke Watson a chance to continue an excellent start to the season at No.8.
Gloucester - Player to Watch: Nicky Robinson was the match-winner last time out but had to do it from the bench. With Tim Taylor now out injured this is step one in the former Wales international's bid to make the No.10 jersey his own.
Gloucester - Team News: Robinson is partnered at halfback by Dave Lewis following an injury to Rory Lawson while Alex Brown returns to the second-row in place of Dave Attwood.
Key Battle: Barkley and Hape versus Tindall and Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu in midfield. Tindall, Fuimaono-Sapolu and Barkley are all facing former clubs and there should be some lively exchanges.
Trivia: If Bath win they will set a new club record for consecutive home wins, with nine.
Stats: Gloucester have won only one game away from home since October 2009 - against Worcester at Sixways.
Odds: The weather forecast for the Rec isn't great, so you might fancy a nailbiter. bet365 are offering Bath to win by one to five points at 5/1.
" There is nothing better sometimes than playing a local derby, especially under lights. Throughout my career, I played a few home games and a few away games against Gloucester, and these fixtures always have that extra special bit." - Bath forwards coach Martin Haag.
"There's no question beating Wasps takes away some of the heat but it's such a long season, a real marathon, so whatever your results you have to be calm and realistic." - Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath in The Express.
Fantasy: Bath's Nick Abendanon and Matt Carraro have been among the tries in recent weeks and could be worth a look in the ESPN Premiership Rugby Fantasy Game.
Prediction: Gloucester have struggled on the road and Bath love a big game on home soil. Even with the weather possibly playing a part, Bath should take this one relatively comfortably.
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