Test of character for Bath and Leicester
September 29, 2011
Leicester's Mathew Tait tries to break through a gap in the Sarries defence last weekend © Getty Images
Bath and Leicester Tigers will both be intent on putting demoralising defeats behind them when they collide at the Recreation Ground on Saturday afternoon.
Indeed, last weekend was a nightmare for these two sides. Bath, firstly, were beaten 23-6 in their west country derby with Gloucester. Losing to the Cherry and Whites is always a painful experience for Bath but it was the manner of the defeat at Kingsholm which will have really grated this time around. The visitors had been utterly dominant in the opening half hour only to suddenly lose complete control of the contest and boss Ian McGeechan was left just as mystified as everyone else by his side's collapse.
Leicester boss Richard Cockerill, meanwhile, was also left bemoaning lapses in concentration - as well as a succession of missed tackles - after his side slumped to a demoralising 50-25 defeat at home to Saracens. There were mitigating circumstances in that Leicester have arguably been hit harder than any other side by World Cup call-ups but there was no disguising the paucity of the performance. The worry for Leicester now is that unless they start winning again soon they could find themselves in a rut which even the eventual return of their international contingent might not be able to rest.
Bath - Player to Watch: Guy Mercer will hope to fill Carl Fearns' boots after the former Sale openside was ruled out of the clash with a slight knock. After bursting onto the scene last season, the squat openside will hope to utilise his powerful frame to its' full advantage.
Bath - Team News: Bath have rung the changes for the match with Dan Hipkiss returning to outside centre with Ben Williams coming inside in the midfield. Matt Carraro shifts onto the wing with Olly Woodburn coming onto the bench after Jack Cuthbert was ruled out with a slight knock along with the impressive Carl Fearns and Nathan Catt. In the front-row David Flatman and Pieter Dixon return with Kane Palma-Newport completing the prop department. Simon Taylor returns in the No.8 shirt with Ben Skirving shifting to blindside with promising youngster Guy Mercer at openside.
Leicester Tigers - Player to Watch: Geoff Parling is back in the Tigers side after a 10-month absence and he will be going all out to assert himself in the engine room. With Dave Attwood in the opposite team, the battle of the England also-rans should be ferocious.
Leicester Tigers - Team News: Parling earns his first start in 10 months after making his comeback from a knee injury. Mathew Tait also takes his place in the backline with matt Smith moving to centre and Jeremy Staunton taking the fly-half berth. Ben Pienaar is named in the matchday squad for the first time in 2011-12.
Key Battle: The old heads of Sam Vesty and Jeremy Staunton both have their rivals down under with Stephen Donald and Toby Flood lying in wait. Vesty has been in prolific form for the West Country side while Staunton will hope to prove to Richard Cockerill that he is worthy of the fly-half spot with George Ford hot on his heels.
Trivia: Bath have not crossed the Tigers tryline in the Premiership for 266 minutes since Matt Banahan did so at Welford Road on 3 April 2010.
Stats: Bath have not beaten Leicester in the Premiership since Tigers visited The Rec on 15 November 2008 and lost 21-25.
"The Bath- Leicester rivalry goes back a long way, so no matter who's putting the shirt on it's always going to be a good game and a tense affair."
" It's a tough start to the season for us, but the players have shown a great attitude to their work, they are a tight bunch of lads and we have to just battle on."
Prediction: Bath will be smarting from their loss to West Country rivals Gloucester last week and there's no better team to bounce back against than their old rivals the Tigers. And with Leicester struggling for form at the start of the season, expect Bath to prevail.
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