Bath and Irish look to bounce back to form
December 31, 2010
Scrum-half Danny Care in action for Harlequins during their victory over London Irish earlier this week © Getty Images
Bath and London Irish will both be determined to breathe some much-needed life into their respective seasons when they go head-to head at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
The Exiles are in a major slump having lost their last eight games in all competitions dating back to their Premiership victory over Sale at the end of October. Bath's recent record is marginally better with just one victory in their last eight outings - and Anglo-Welsh Cup win against Cardiff Blues in November.
Irish's most recent reverse came in the high-profile Big Game 3 at Twickenham earlier this week where Quins got the better of them in front of 74,000 fans. Bath havenot graced the Premiership stage since a narrow defeat to Wasps last month with subsequent back-to-back Heineken Cup defeats to Ulster doing little to lift the gloom.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Fly-half Chris Malone kicked all of his side's points in defeat to Quins and will need to step up again if the Exiles are to halt their slide.
London Irish - Team News: Irish make four changes to its starting XV with Alex Corbisiero getting the nod at loose-head, Chris Hala'ufia packing down at No.8 and Elvis Seveali'i filling the No.13 shirt. Rising Exiles' star Matt Garvey joins Nick Kennedy in the second row while Paul Hodgson captains the side from scrum-half.
Bath - Player to Watch: The ever-influential Luke Watson returns to the Bath line-up and will no doubt be determined to lead his side's resurgence.
Bath - Team News: Watson will lead the side for the first time since November from the blindside flank in the place of Andy Beattie while David Barnes starts at loose-head with David Flatman missing out.
Key Battle: In what is shaping up as a tight contest, the battle at openside between Irish's Steffon Armitage and Bath's Lewis Moody is set to be pivotal.
Trivia: London Irish have lost their last eight games in all competition while Bath's only success in their latest eight outings was a 29-19 victory over Cardiff Blues on November 5.
Stats: The Exiles' only victory over Bath in their last seven encounters was a 16-0 victory at The Rec on November 28, 2009.
"The squad is feeling positive, enthusiastic and energetic and we're looking forward to a good game on Saturday. We're only at the half way point in the Premiership, we're fourth in the table and over the coming weeks we'll be going all out to ensure we maintain that top four position." - Irish boss Toby Booth remains positive
"We are well aware of what we need to do to climb the ladder and we are also aware what a threat London Irish hold as a team. They have been there or thereabouts in most of their games and you look at their team on paper and it's a quality team. I'm sure, like us, they are looking to turn a corner and we have to make sure it's not this week but the week after for them." Bath's Defence and Skills coach Brad Davis
Fantasy: Bath scrum-half Michael Claassens can bost 27 fantasy point so far this season while his Irish counterpart Paul Hodgson has 42 to his name - which one would you rather have in your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby line-up?
Prediction: Ten points separate these two sides in the Premiership table but there is unlikely to be much between them on Saturday - expect home advantage to give London Irish the edge in a not-so-thrilling clash.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold