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Banahan happy with Bath progress


Matt Banahan anticipates a lively contest against Gloucester.

Matt Banahan anticipates a lively contest against Gloucester.

Matt Banahan anticipates a lively contest against Gloucester.

Bath will climb to second place in the Aviva Premiership if they beat Gloucester in Friday night's west country derby.

Although they could then be overhauled by Leicester and Northampton, who both play on the weekend, it would underline the positive early season progress being made at the Recreation Ground.

After a two-week for European action, when Bath claimed victories over Bordeaux-Begles and Newport Gwent Dragons, attention now turns to hosting one of their fiercest rivals.

"Gloucester will be up for it. Maybe they haven't started the season as well as they would have liked, but in a game like this they will raise their game and we have to be ready for them," Bath's England international wing Matt Banahan said.

"Form goes out the window when you play a local derby on a Friday night under the lights, so we are going to have to be at the top of our game.

"We are happy with the way we kept our momentum going during the European break, picking up two important wins and putting ourselves in control of our group.

"And now we want to keep going in the Premiership. It's an exciting time for the club. There is a lot of competition for places and everyone is raising their game."

Banahan switches back to wing against Gloucester - he partnered Gavin Henson in midfield when the Dragons were downed last Saturday - with Jonathan Joseph and Kyle Eastmond forming the centre partnership.

Elsewhere, full-back Anthony Watson, hooker Rob Webber and lock Dave Attwood all make their first appearances since the end of September, while George Ford and Peter Stringer return as the half-backs.

Gloucester have won on three of their last five visits to Bath, but their Premiership form this season has proved patchy.

Although they claimed an impressive win against Northampton, Gloucester lost on home soil to Sale Sharks and Exeter, while in Europe, a win against Perpignan was followed by defeat away to Munster.

Rugby director Nigel Davies has made nine changes following the 26-10 loss at Thomond Park, including five up-front as Elliott Stooke, James Hudson, skipper Tom Savage, Matt Kvesic and Sione Kalamafoni all return.

Kvesic and fly-half Freddie Burns, who also starts, were released from England training duty earlier this week, with the four division switches being Burns, scrum-half Jimmy Cowan, wing James Simpson-Daniel and full-back Rob Cook.

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Simpson-Daniel, meanwhile, sets a new Gloucester record by making his 183rd Premiership appearance, beating Peter Buxton's previous best.

Only five players - Mark Cueto, Steve Hanley, Tom Varndell, Paul Sackey and Tom Voyce - currently stand above Simpson-Daniel, who has scored 63 Premiership touchdowns, on the all-time league try chart.

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