Guy Mercer to captain Bath Rugby against Calvisano in Amlin Challenge Cup
Guy Mercer will captain the Bath senior side for the first time today as they take on Calvisano in the Amlin Challenge Cup at the Recreation Ground.
Bath are taking the opportunity to field some young stars and Mercer, who has captained the Bath United side in the Aviva A League for the majority of the season, lines up in the back row alongside fellow Academy graduate Josh Ovens and debutant Nick Koster.
Ryan Caldwell makes his first start of the season, linking up with Dominic Day in the second row.
Davey Wilson returns from international duty with England to the tighthead shirt, with Brett Sharman and Charlie Beech completing the pack.
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Tom Heathcote comes in at fly-half, re-forming his half-back partnership with Mark McMillan who starts at scrum-half.
Kyle Eastmond retains his position on the right wing, with Olly Woodburn replacing Tom Biggs on the left. Sam Vesty comes into the inside centre birth to form a new centre partnership with Horacio Agulla, and Jack Cuthbert is named at full-back.
Ovens knows Bath cannot afford to underestimate Calvisano if they want to maintain their flying start to the Amlin Cup campaign.
After recording bonus-point wins at Bucharest Wolves and Agen, Bath face consecutive matches against the Italian side.
With the visitors more used to life competing in the National Championship of Excellence in their homeland, it would be a major shock if Bath’s superior skill set did not lead them to victory.
Flanker Ovens, however, does not want over-confidence to creep into his side’s game.
He said: “We want to get two more wins under our belts, which will take us back into the Premiership with confidence.
“We will be up against a tough team, who will want to come at us and be aggressive. We can’t go into it thinking we are going to win.
“We’ve got to do the basics well, keep things simple and hopefully our fitness will pay off and we will tire them out at the end.”
With injuries to Carl Fearns and Ben Skirving, as well as the recent absence of Francois Louw on international duty, 23-year-old Ovens has seen an increase in first-team action and is in no mood to relinquish the shirt.
Ovens said: “I am ready to take it to the next level and put in a good performance which hopefully the coaches will take note of.
“With us not being in the Heineken Cup, it’s given a few of the younger members of the squad the opportunity to play the European games.
“You get a mixture of old and young and a variety of experience, which has brought us all together.”
Bath (home to Calvisano, 2.15pm): Jack Cuthbert; Kyle Eastmond, Horacio Agulla, Sam Vesty, Olly Woodburn; Tom Heathcote, Mark McMillan; Charlie Beech, Brett Sharman, David Wilson, Dominic Day, Ryan Caldwell, Josh Ovens, Guy Mercer (capt), Nick Koster.
Replacements: Tom Dunn, Anthony Perenise, Kane Palma-Newport, Will Spencer, Will Skuse, Chris Cook, Ollie Devoto, Ben Williams.