Sam Vesty will come into the starting line-up at inside centre for Bath as they begin life without Olly Barkley and go looking to grab a vital win in the Aviva Premiership against old rivals Gloucester at Kingsholm today.
This will be Vesty’s first start of the season, and he will be the fifth different centre partner this season for Dan Hipkiss. Michael Claassens and Stephen Donald form the half-backs.
Having played at inside centre last Saturday in the win over Sale Sharks, Donald slots back into his preferred role of fly-half, replacing Barkley, who last week played his final game for Bath before taking up a contract at Racing Metro 92.
The back three doesn’t change, with Kyle Eastmond and Tom Biggs out wide and Nick Abendanon at full-back.
Up front, Paul James is retained at loosehead, and will link up with Lee Mears – who is handed the captain’s armband – and Davey Wilson to form an all-international front row. In the absence of club captain Stuart Hooper, who injured his hamstring last Saturday, Dominic Day partners former Cherry and White Dave Attwood in the engine room.
The back row remains unchanged as Carl Fearns and Ben Skirving pack down on the flanks, with 66 times capped Scot Simon Taylor at No 8.
Lock forward Attwood said: “Kingsholm was once home to me and it is a special place. To be arriving there this weekend with my Bath team-mates is a real honour.
“These are special days and there is a huge amount of history to remember as you run out. I can’t wait for the game.
“People will always say how nasty the Shed is and how aggressive they are, but they are a nice bunch of people and they really love their rugby. They are really passionate and they display that by being as vocal as they can. But in my experience there has never been anything malicious in it. Long may that continue, as long as there’s some really hard rubbing, that’s fine.
“A win there would do masses for our confidence heading into the European games starting next week.”
Hipkiss has no qualms about having another new partner in midfield.
He said: “It doesn’t matter what the combinations are, everyone knows the way we are set up to play.
“What Gary (Gold) has done since coming in is make sure everyone is on the same wavelength. It shouldn’t matter if there is someone different alongside me. Anyone who has to step up knows exactly what they need to do.”
Kyle Eastmond has looked the most destructive of the back three and Hipkiss has been hugely impressed by the winger’s flying start to the season.
“Kyle is not just a sprinter, he’s got a physical side to his game as well,” he said. “He’s great running at people but he’s comfortable on the ball as well.
“He’s a smart player and not many wingers have got the ball carrying skills he has got.”
Bath, away to Gloucester, today, 2.15pm: Nick Abendanon; Kyle Eastmond, Dan Hipkiss, Sam Vesty, Tom Biggs; Stephen Donald, Michael Claassens; Paul James, Lee Mears (capt.), Davey Wilson, Dominic Day, Dave Attwood, Carl Fearns, Ben Skirving, Simon Taylor.
Replacements: Ross Batty, Nathan Catt, Anthony Perenise, Will Spencer, Will Skuse, Mark McMillan, Ollie Devoto, Jack Cuthbert,