Tom Dunn to make Bath Rugby debut against Bucharest Wolves
Bath University scholar Tom Dunn will make his first start for the senior side today as they look to secure a home quarter-final in the Amlin Challenge Cup with victory over Bucharest Wolves at the Recreation Ground.
Dunn is promoted from the bench alongside fellow front-rowers Charlie Beech and Anthony Perenise.
Stuart Hooper returns to captain the side from the second row, partnering Ryan Caldwell. Will Skuse and Nick Koster are named once more on the blindside flank and at No 8 respectively, with Guy Mercer coming in on the openside.
Mark McMillan and Tom Heathcote continue their half-back partnership, with Olly Woodburn and Horacio Agulla out wide on the wings. Ben Williams and Dan Hipkiss link up in the centres again, with Jack Cuthbert starting at fullback.
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On the bench Nathan Catt and Matt Banahan return from injury.
A win over Bucharest will guarantee Bath remain as top seeds in the tournament, a position they have held since the opening weekend, and see them qualify for a home quarter-final in April.
Bzth are confident the match will go ahead. The pitch at the Rec has been covered with a heated tent since last Sunday, blowing hot air on to the pitch and keeping it protected from recent freezing weather, and will continue to protect it against the forecast snow.
With Irish titans Leinster and Munster among a host of quality sides potentially dropping down from the Heineken Cup, Bath second-row Ryan Caldwell is relishing the possibility of locking horns with his former foes.
During the 28-year-old’s stint at home province Ulster, both Munster and Leinster landed European rugby’s top prize on two occasions.
Leinster went on to complete a hat-trick of titles last season – Caldwell’s first at Bath.
Provided they beat Bucharest, Bath are certain of top seeding for the quarter-finals and will therefore avoid any drop-downs until at least the last four.
And Caldwell can think of no better opposition than his old Irish rivals should his side make it that far.
“Potentially you’ve got the likes of Leinster and Munster coming down, who are two really big heavyweight teams in Europe,” said two-cap Caldwell, who signed a new contract at The Rec in December.
“It just shows you the quality of European rugby. When you’ve got teams like that not able to qualify in the Heineken Cup it shows that the northern hemisphere game is coming on a lot.
“Those are the types of clubs we want to be playing against, so a big carrot for us is to get the win this weekend and get home advantage in the last eight, then maybe play a big side like Leinster or Munster later on.”
Bath v Bucharest Wolves, today, 2.15pm: Jack Cuthbert; Horacio Agulla, Dan Hipkiss, Ben Williams, Olly Woodburn; Tom Heathcote, Mark McMillan; Charlie Beech, Tom Dunn, Anthony Perenise, Stuart Hooper (capt.), Ryan Caldwell, Will Skuse, Guy Mercer, Nick Koster. Replacements: Brett Sharman; Nathan Catt; Kane Palma-Newport; Dave Attwood; Francois Louw; Chris Cook; Sam Vesty, Matt Banahan.