Key Clash Preview: Bath v London Irish

Luke WatsonDate: Saturday 11th of September
Kick off: 14:15
Venue: The Recreation Ground

Form:

Bath: Steve Meehan’s side face their first home test of the season and go into it after winning last weekend up at Leeds. Bath looked sharp, particularly new captain Luke Watson (pictured), who scored an impressive try off the back of the scrum. If you want to be champions, you have to win your home games, and Bath will look to make a statement of intent when Irish come to town this weekend.

London Irish: Underdogs going into their match against Saracens last weekend, Irish came from behind to put out an impressive second half display, with their rapid back three all crossing the try line. Irish struggled on the road last season but have won 4 out of their last 5 at The Rec. Written off by many in pre-season, if Irish win on Saturday, it will be hard to write them off as contenders for the play-offs.

What to expect: Two sides whose mantra is to run the ball. They are both blessed with great pace, and in the past two seasons have finished as the top try-scoring teams in the Premiership. Hopefully if the weather is good, there should be plenty of tries from either side, rather than the monsoon the sides endured in the corresponding episode last season.

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All eyes on: For Bath fans it’s the first time to see new recruits at home, so for his first match for his new club, all eyes should be on Lewis Moody. Knowing his commitment and attitude, expect nothing less than a stellar performance. Meanwhile for Irish, Topsy Ojo is back after a long period of time out with injury. He notched his first try during pre-season for 18 months, and will look to replicate classic tries like this one on the right as he returns to the Rec.

Head to head: Olly Barkley v Dan Bowden.
Two players of a similar style who play at 12, Barkley seems set this season on proving Martin Johnson wrong, and his non-selection in the EPS does seem like a bad call. His distribution and skill are of the highest standard, and his goal kicking form since he came back from Gloucester has been excellent.

Meanwhile opposite him Bowden will be an unknown quantity to Aviva Premiership supporters, but anyone who saw him play for the Crusaders in the Super 14 will know the talent he possesses. Much like Barkley, he has the ability to cut defences wide open, and expect him to play an important role for Irish this season and on Saturday.

Last year’s result: 28 November 2009 – Bath 0-16 London Irish.

Weather forecast: Light rain, but hopefully this won’t happen and both sides will be able to play the dry conditions they prefer.

Prediction: A tight call, and as with most tight calls, the home side should just about have the edge. With that in mind, Bath by 3.

By Ben Coles (@bennycoles)

Photo: Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images

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