Bath Rugby pick strong squad for Harlequins LV= Cup semi-final
Bath have named a powerful starting side with just three changes to that which beat Gloucester at the Rec last weekend for today’s LV= Cup semi-final clash against Harlequins.
All three changes for the 12.15pm kick-off come in the front row, with Nathan Catt and Samoan international Anthony Perenise coming in for Paul James and Davey Wilson, who are both involved in the RBS 6 Nations this weekend, and Ross Batty replacing the injured Rob Webber at hooker.
Last week’s Premiership man of the match Dominic Day is again selected alongside Dave Attwood in a heavyweight lock pairing, with Francois Louw leading the side from the blindside, Carl Fearns on the openside and Ben Skirving completing the pack from the base of the scrum.
Tom Heathcote, nominated once again for the LV= Breakthrough Player Award, is partnered by 98-times capped Peter Stringer in the half-backs, while Tom Biggs and Horacio Agulla are named out wide on the wings.
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Kyle Eastmond and Matt Banahan continue to build their impressive partnership in the midfield, with Nick Abendanon completing the line-up.
On the bench, there is a return from injury for lock and club captain Stuart Hooper, and Argentinian international hooker Eusebio Guinazu could make his first appearance in the blue, black and white.
Louw insists there will be no hangover from last year’s semi-final agony.
Twelve months ago, Bath were handed a home tie against a largely second-string Leicester side which should have yielded safe passage into the final. That was far from the case, however, with Bath drastically under-performing and being handed a heartbreaking 17-16 defeat by a Tigers side who went on to lift the trophy a week later.
Louw – who captained the side that day – says that, under the stewardship of new head coach Gary Gold, Bath are a different team.
“We take every year as it comes and every game as it comes,” said the South African flanker. “This year is 2013, we are playing the LV= Cup semi-finals again and I don’t think we are going to hang on to what happened last year. It was very disappointing nonetheless but it’s a new era for us as a side and a club.
“There has been a lot of changes this year, with a new coaching set-up coming in and a couple of new players as well. But the guys have found each other and are starting to really complement each other.
“We are constantly building as a side and trying to improve.
“I think that’s been showing in the last couple of weeks. Barring a little speed bump against Northampton, I think we’ve been pretty consistent.
“The form is better and that says a lot about the character of the guys and where we are heading as a club.”
Bath travel to The Stoop in their best form of the season, with Friday night’s defeat of Gloucester their seventh victory in eight games.
Louw does not want his team-mates to get carried away, however, and admitted they still have a long way to go before they can be deemed a success.
Louw said: “We never want to get ahead of ourselves – a few wins doesn’t mean we are all good, all set and ready to go.
“This is a great opportunity for us and, hopefully, if we can make it all the way, it’s a back door into Europe.”
Bath: N Abendanon; H Agulla, M Banahan, K Eastmond, T Biggs; T Heathcote, P Stringer; N Catt, R Batty, A Perenise, D Day, D Attwood, F Louw (capt), C Fearns, B Skirving. Reps: E Guinazu, C Beech, K Palma-Newport, S Hooper, N Koster, M Classens, S Vesty, S Rokoduguni.