Carl Fearns returns to Bath Rugby line-up for LV= Cup clash at Gloucester
Bath’s big-hitting back row forward Carl Fearns is back in the starting line-up for the LV= Cup match against West Country rivals Gloucester at Kingsholm today.
Fearns will be joined in the back row by Ben Skirving and Francois Louw, while Dominic Day and former Gloucester lock Dave Attwood form a heavy, powerful partnership in the engine room.
The front row sees England international Rob Webber start his second consecutive match after returning from long term injury. He was excellent in his Bath debut last week and will look to improve on that today with Charlie Beech and Anthony Perenise by his side at loosehead and tighthead prop.
After a dream debut last week versus Exeter, Ireland international Peter Stringer is selected to partner All Black Stephen Donald in the half-backs, while Sam Vesty and Matt Banahan form a midfield with plenty of experience and brute force.
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Olly Woodburn sits on the left wing, with Argentinian international Horacio Agulla on the right, and Bath stalwart Nick Abendanon returns at full-back.
The bragging rights between Bath and Gloucester will be just as keenly fought today, despite the fact there are no Aviva Premiership points up for grabs.
Attwood knows the importance of victory to the local rivals, having spent two seasons with the Cherry and Whites before moving to The Rec in 2011.
And although their latest meeting comes in the LV= Cup, neither will want to give an inch in the battle for West Country supremacy.
“It doesn’t matter that it’s a different competition – a Bath-Gloucester game is a Bath-Gloucester game,” said 25-year-old Attwood.
“At the end of the day it’s a group of West County blokes against another group of West Country blokes, all trying to batter one another.
“I don’t think there is such a thing as a low-key game between the two clubs. It means an awful lot to the supporters and the players.
“In the game we played up there earlier in the year, the new guys very quickly realised how important this fixture is, how loud it is up there and how desperate they are to win at all costs.
“In the last few months or so we’ve dropped off the pace in terms of our form in the Premiership and they are doing really well, which is a credit to them.
“Although it’s an LV= Cup game it’s never an easy place to go – I know, that of all people.”
Abendanon has been at Bath since 2005 but has yet to taste victory at the home of their biggest rivals.
The 26-year-old full-back says Gloucester’s recent dominance in the fixture will have little bearing on Bath’s approach.
“Even though it’s only the LV= Cup, it would be nice to go there and get a victory in front of the Shed,” said Abendanon.
“We haven’t beaten them home or away for a number of years, so it would be great to give the fans a few bragging rights.”
Bath: N Abendanon, H Agulla, M Banahan, S Vesty, O Woodburn, S Donald, P Stringer, C Beech, R Webber, A Perenise, D Attwood, D Day, F Louw, C Fearns, B Skirving. Replacements: R Batty, N Catt, K Palma-Newport, W Spencer, M Gilbert, C Cook, S Rokoduguni, J Cuthbert.