Bath faces Harlequins at the Recreation Ground in the Aviva Premiership on Saturday: 1:30pm kick off
Hosts make six changes, including Matt Banahan’s return on the wing
Chris Robshaw makes his first appearance for Quins since the World Cup
This afternoon’s clash brings together two sides who are set firmly in the middle of the embryonic table, as Harlequins travel to Bath for the 1.30pm kick off.
The two sides endured markedly similar weekends last time out with Bath slipping to a surprise shutout 16-9 defeat at Wasps after their opening-day win over Exeter, while Harlequins, after beating Wasps in round one, were edged out 22-19 on their trip to Leicester.
Both sides, who have similar ambitions this year, will be determined to return to winning ways later today and it could come down to some fine margins at The Rec, but Bath have the edge on the pre-game betting odds on the back of their fearsome recent home record, coupled with Quins’ poor record away from home of late.
A couple of thrillers took place between these two sides last season, but it was Bath who took a clean sweep of wins; after a 25-6 home win in November, Mike Ford’s men claimed a pair of away wins, taking the spoils with a 23-21 triumph in late January ahead of an equally dramatic 27-26 win at the Twickenham Stoop in May.
After last week’s reverse, Bath chief Ford makes six changes to his side, including Matt Banahan’s return on the wing.
Max Lahiff, Rob Webber and David Wilson pack down in a new front row, while Dominic Day and Guy Mercer are also named amongst the forwards.
In the away camp, England captain Chris Robshaw makes his first appearance for Harlequins since England’s early exit from the World Cup
Scotland winger Tim Visser also comes in to make his Quins debut while there are also first starts of the season for Nick Easter, Joe Gray, Joe Marler and club captain Danny Care.
This will be tight and tough throughout and whoever wins the forward battle could be the side which comes out on top. Both are equally impressive up front, while their back divisions are equally matched. But, when things get tight between these two sides, history says Bath come up trumps. Bath by 5.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Bath: Matt Banahan
Standing 6ft 7in, Banahan switched from the pack to the wing with outstanding success as a youngster, scoring 16 tries in his debut season for Bath.
Since capped 16 times for England, the hulking winger scored twice in his first two Tests before featuring in the 2011 World Cup. With 352 points in 183 appearances, the Jersey-born flier is the undoubted leading scorer amongst the current Bath squad after joining from the London Irish Academy in 2006 and, if he finds his form, he can be devastating.
Harlequins: Chris Robshaw
After a disappointing World Cup campaign for England, Robshaw took a lot of criticism. Some of it was deserved, but he will have felt the burden of captaincy weighing down on his shoulders.
This will be his first game since the RWC and will be a test of character for the 29-year-old, without the responsibility of captaincy, could be left to play to his full potential.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Niko Matawalu, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dave Attwood (c), 4 Dominic Day, 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Max Lahiff.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Stuart Hooper, 20 Max Northcote-Green, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Tom Homer.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 George Lowe, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care (c), 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Jack Clifford, 5 Sam Twomey, 4 James Horwill, 4 James Horwill, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica 23, Ollie Lindsay-Hague.
Date: Saturday, October 31
Venue: Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 13:30 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Andrew Pearce, Roy Maybank
Television match official: David Sainsbury
Timekeeper: Matthew Peters
Assessor: Martin Fox