Bristol v Bath: Teams
At Memorial Stadium, Sunday September 7, kick-off 3pm
Last Updated: 05/09/08 2:32pm
James: Back in the frame
Butch James has made himself available to play against Bristol at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday, despite only returning from South Africa on Tuesday.
"Bath is a great start for us. The crowd should be packed in there to create a great atmosphere which we're looking forward to."
Bristol head coach Richard Hill Quotes of the week
Keen to pull his Bath shirt back on again, the fly-half insists he is comfortable with his fitness and energy levels and will be looking to put in a strong performance in the local derby.
"It is good to be back in this beautiful city," said James. "I am still feeling good and these first two games are really big for us, so I was keen to play against Bristol.
"I am raring to go and really looking forward to Sunday."
Head coach Steve Meehan echoed James' enthusiasm for the match ahead, having suffered a defeat against Edinburgh in the final of Bath Rugby's pre-season friendly matches.
Highlighting one of the mistakes against Edinburgh, Meehan is confident that his team can rectify their errors: "We did not provide ourselves with quick and clean ball at the ruck against Edinburgh, but everyone is aware what is necessary to win.
"A match against Bristol is always special and I am sure that both teams will come out and deliver something worthy of a Guinness Premiership opening fixture.
"Having a local derby as your first match may focus the mind a little bit more, but only time will really be able to tell that. However, I am sure the supporters are feeling as excited about it as we are."
Bristol prop Mark Irish, after an impressive pre-season, has been selected to start only his second Guinness Premiership game against Bath.
Irish, who spent all of last season on loan at Newbury Blues, last started a Premiership fixture at Leicester Tigers in the 2005-6 season but was widely acknowledged to be one of the top performing props in National One in 2007-8.
Bristol also name three players who will be making their debuts for the club in centre Junior Fatialofa, fly-half Adrian Jarvis and second row Robert Sidoli.
Head coach Richard Hill acknowledged that Bath are a tough team to face first up, however his team are fully prepared for the test.
"Pre-season has gone really well," he said. "Everyone has worked really hard and it's certainly gone better than it did last season when it was well documented that we had a lot of changes on and off the field and were quite disrupted.
"Bath is a great start for us. The crowd should be packed in there to create a great atmosphere which we're looking forward to.
"Traditionally Bath start and finish the season well so we'll need to be on top of our game. They were probably the form side at the end of last season and playing a fantastic brand of rugby."
"We'll have to defend and defend in the opening 20 minutes. They will come out firing on all cylinders and it'll be wave after wave. We need to hold out and not concede.
Hill also passed comment on his new recruits Sidoli, Fatialofa and Jarvis.
"Robert Sidoli comes in at lock," said Hill. "He's a commanding figure and has brought a huge amount of experience and some different ideas with him.
"Junior Fatialofa has made rapid strides and we have great confidence in him. Adrian Jarvis was in great form at Harlequins last season and has looked very calm and assured in pre-season."
Bristol Rugby: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Junior Fatialofa, 12 Kevin Maggs, 11 David Lemi, 10 Adrian Jarvis, 9 Haydn Thomas; 1 Mark Irish, 2 Scott Linklater, 3 Jason Hobson, 4 Nathan Budgett, 5 Robert Sidoli, 6 Andrew Blowers, 7 Joe El Abd (capt), 8 Dan Ward-Smith.
Replacements: 16 David Blaney, 17 Scott Linklater, 18 Mariano Sambucetti, 19 Redford Pennycook, 20 Graeme Beveridge, 21 Ed Barnes, 22 Greg Barden.
Bath:15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Claassens; 1 David Barnes, 2 Lee Mears, 3 Matt Stevens, 4 Justin Harrison, 5 Peter Short, 6 Stuart Hooper, 7 Michael Lipman (capt), 8 Jonny Faamatuainu.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Duncan Bell, 18 David Flatman, 19 James Scaysbrook, 20 Scott Bemand, 21 Shaun Berne, 22 Andrew Higgins.