London Irish v Bath: Priestland returns as Bath look to bounce back
London Irish face Bath on Saturday at the Madejski Stadium: 3 pm kick-off
The Exiles make five changes to their starting XV
Fly-half Rhys Priestland makes his first start of the season for Bath
Visitors come into the game following two successive defeats while the hosts are yet to pick up a point after three back-to-back defeats
This afternoon’s clash at the Madejski Stadium sees two sides who are struggling for form so far this season come together as point-less London Irish host Bath, who sit ninth in the table after losing their last two games.
Bath could hardly have started the year any better, picking up an impressive 19-17 home win against top-four rivals Exeter in round one, but successive defeats, to Wasps, 16-9 on the road, and Harlequins, 38-28 at home, have seen them slip down the table.
Meanwhile, Irish are only spared sitting at the bottom of the table after Newcastle’s poor start to the season after three defeats from three. However, it could be argued that Tom Coventry’s men are in a false position after playing three of last year’s top five with their season starting with tough 28-16 home defeat to Leicester Tigers before a 38-11 defeat to in-form Exeter two weeks ago, ahead of a close 24-14 defeat at champions Saracens.
But, if they are to prove their critics wrong, this game, their first at home since round one, could be the ideal opportunity to kickstart their 2015/16 campaign against an out-of-sorts Bath side who are still reeling from the shock departure of Sam Burgess this week.
For the hosts, five changes are made from last week’s outing with Tom Guest returning from injury in the back row, while Shane Geraghty replaces Chris Noakes at fly-half in the other notable change.
For this afternoon’s visitors, Bath bring in Wales’ Rhys Priestland for his first start, leaving England’s George Ford on the bench, as front rowers Nick Auterac, Rob Webber, and Henry Thomas start together for the first time since a 39-16 win at Gloucester in December 2014.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
London Irish: Shane Gareghty
There are few with more attachments to Irish than Gareghty; the 29-year-old Englishman has become an icon of the club across two spells since signing for the club’s academy in 2004. A six-time England international, he will be looking to rediscover the form that saw him considered one of the country’s most gifted halves this season.
Bath: Rhys Priestland
The Welshman, who was involved in the Wales squad for this year’s World Cup, has been drafted in by Bath coach Mike Ford as he looks for a change in fortunes. Replacing George Ford is a big call, and much responsibility will rest on the full debutant’s shoulders in what looks set to be a testing afternoon against a side who will be desperate to pick up their first win of the season.
London Irish: 15 Topsy Ojo, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Fergus Mulchrone, 11 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Rob McCusker, 7 David Sisi, 6 Tom Guest, 5 Matt Symons, 4 George Skivington (C), 3 Leo Halavatau, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Smallbone.
Replacements: 16 Gerard Ellis, 17 Tom Court, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Eoin Sheriff, 20 Luke Narraway, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Chris Noakes, 23 Dom Waldouck
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Alafoti Faosiliva, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dom Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Nick Auterac.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Tom Ellis, 20 Max Northcote-Green, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 George Ford, 23 Jeff Williams.
Date: Saturday, November 7
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Wayne Falla, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Rowan Kitt