Bath and Falcons set for swift re-match
May 6, 2011
Newcastle's Jimmy Gopperth off loads the ball under pressure during last weekend's defeat to Bath © Getty Images
Bath will look to extend their season at the expense of relegation-threatened Newcastle at The Rec on Saturday.
The two sides meet for the second time in seven days following Bath's 14-11 victory at Kingston Park last weekend. That result kept Bath's play-off hopes alive while the losing bonus point gave the Falcons a narrow one-point advantage over basement side Leeds.
Currently fifth in the table, Bath must win to give themselves any hope of pipping Gloucester or Northampton to a semi-final date while only a bonus point win will guarantee Newcastle Premiership safety - less if Leeds drop any points at Northampton. Defeat for the Falcons and victory for Leeds would see them switch places at the bottom of the table when their only hope of escaping the drop would be defeat for Worcester in the RFU Championship Final.
Bath - Player to Watch: If Bath fail to make the post-season, this game could be England captain Lewis Moody's last competitive outing before the World Cup.
Bath - Team News: Sam Vesty moves from centre to fullback with Nick Abendanon switching to the left wing. Tom Biggs moves to the other wing as a result while Matt Carraro is named at outside centre to make room for Matt Banahan at No.12. Mark Lilley gets the nod at tight-head in the only change to the forwards.
Newcastle - Player to Watch: We may sound like a broken record on this one, but the influence of fly-half Jimmy Gopperth will be pivotal to the Falcons' hopes.
Newcastle - Team News: England U20s captain Alex Gray is handed his first Premiership start in one of four changes. Cumbrian talent Mark Wilson partners Gray on the flanks, while Jeremy Manning and James Fitzpatrick return to a reshaped backline. Fitzpatrick comes in for Rob Vickerman and starts at inside centre with Manning getting the nod at fullback, replacing Alex Tait who moves to the wing.
Key Battle: Expect a bruising battle for possession between Bath's back-row trio of Ben Skirving, Lewis Moody and Simon Taylor and their Newcastle counterparts Mark Wilson, Alex Gray and Ally Hogg.
Trivia: Veteran Bath lock Danny Grewcock, who is set to hang his boots up at the end of the season, has made 217 Premiership appearances over the last 14 seasons.
Stats: Bath have won their last four matches and have only tasted defeat once in their last seven games - a 37-6 defeat to Leicester on March 26.
"You would not meet a nicer bloke off the field, and he's not the sort of bloke you would want to meet on the field. The perfect rugby player, really!" - Bath director of rugby Sir Ian McGeechan pays tribute to soon-to-retire lock Danny Grewcock
"We have still got a massive fight on our hands, and we need a result. We are disappointed with how we performed last weekend, but we have had all the debriefs and now we are just focussed on being really positive and looking to put it right on Saturday." - Newcastle wing Luke Fielden
Fantasy: Falcons fly-half Jimmy Gopperth has been racking up the fantasy points this season but his opposite number Butch James may be a timely addition to your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game line-up.
Prediction: Bath to get the better of Newcastle but the Falcons will be celebrating loudest come the final whistle due to results elsewhere.
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