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Gloucester boss David Humphreys expecting tough test at Bath

Published 04/02/2016

Billy Burns will line up at full-back for Gloucester against Aviva Premiership opponents Bath on Friday
Billy Burns will line up at full-back for Gloucester against Aviva Premiership opponents Bath on Friday

Gloucester boss David Humphreys believes that his players face "a huge challenge" against fierce west country rivals Bath on Friday.

But Gloucester can also compound their neighbours' misery at the Recreation Ground, with Bath having suffered five successive defeats in all competitions and not won since they toppled Worcester on December 27.

Bath are currently one place and four points behind Gloucester in the Aviva Premiership, although Humphreys' men have not triumphed on Bath soil since February 2012.

While Bath let slip a 13-point advantage and lost to Premiership leaders Saracens last weekend, Gloucester were undone 19-18 at home by a late Leicester converted try, which summed up both clubs' struggle for league consistency this term.

"We all know how disappointing it was to lose in the way we did, in the last minute," rugby director Humphreys said.

"We are also very conscious that it was the first game of a 10-game block in the Premiership. The season doesn't stand and fall on one defeat.

"We've got a huge challenge at Bath on Friday, and that was a big factor in getting everyone's minds back on the task in hand.

"We are well aware of the challenge ahead. It's a tough one.

"But it is probably fair to say at this stage that every Premiership game will be tough when you see what is at stake at both ends of the table.

"One or two wins takes you up, and in the same way, one or two defeats can knock you down a couple of places."

New Zealand international prop John Afoa returns for Gloucester as one of three personnel changes following the Leicester defeat.

Afoa, who has not played since late December because of a calf muscle injury, replaces Paul Doran-Jones, while other changes see Steve McColl move from full-back to wing instead of David Halaifonua - Billy Burns wears the number 15 shirt - and lock Mariano Galarza replaces Jeremy Thrush.

Bath will be without England international backs George Ford, Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson, but wing Semesa Rokoduguni starts after being released from England squad training earlier this week.

Dan Bowden moves to fly-half instead of Ford, with Kyle Eastmond partnering Matt Banahan in midfield, and captain Stuart Hooper is back in the starting XV, packing down alongside second-row partner Dominic Day.

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