Bath v Northampton: Teams
At The Rec, Friday September 14, kick-off 7.45pm
Last Updated: 13/09/12 4:30pm
Bath and Northampton put their 100 per cent Aviva Premiership records on the line in Friday night's clash at the Recreation Ground.
Saints head to the west country following victories over Gloucester and Exeter, while Bath defeated Worcester and Wasps in their opening two Premiership games.
Friday's winners will go top of the table, although it is likely to be a short-lived stay, and Bath head coach Gary Gold said his squad have been working hard ahead of the clash.
He said: "Northampton are a very strong side, who have made a good start to the competition.
"We all know about their strength in the forwards, but they also back that up with some hugely skilful backs who can attack from anywhere on the field.
"We were pleased with the performance against Wasps, but we know there is still more we can do to improve and we have been working hard on this."
Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder admitted it will be a tough test for his side at The Rec.
He said: "Bath will be a big challenge. They have started the season very well.
"They came from a long way behind and held their nerve to win at Sixways, while against Wasps last weekend they put together some dangerous attacking moves.
"The Rec is always a tough place to play. It is a place where the fans are right on top of you and where it can be intimidating for visiting teams, so it is up to us as to how we respond.
"At times in our first two games we have played well and scored good tries, but we have also been guilty of not finishing games off, and this is something we will be looking to improve."
Mallinder has made four changes from the team that edged out Exeter 24-21 last Sunday, with one of them enforced.
South African number eight Gerrit-Jan van Velze is serving a four-week ban after being cited for a tip tackle on Exeter scrum-half Will Chudley.
Van Velze admitted the offence at a Rugby Football Football Union disciplinary hearing earlier this week, and he must now sit out Premiership games against Bath, Worcester, Wasps and London Irish.
Former Wales back-row forward Rhys Oakley fills the number eight role, while other see switches see centre Luther Burrell replacing George Pisi, fly-half Stephen Myler in for Ryan Lamb and prop Tom Mercey taking over from Brian Mujati.
Bath show two changes, with Ben Williams replacing injured centre Matt Banahan and Wales prop Paul James starting instead of Nathan Catt.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Kyle Eastmond, 13 Dan Hipkiss, 12 Ben Williams, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Olly Barkley, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Carl Fearns, 6 Simon Taylor, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Paul James.
Replacements 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Josh Ovens, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Ollie Devoto, 23 Jack Cuthbert.
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Dom Waldouck, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Vasily Artemyev, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Rhys Oakley, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Tom Mercey, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha. Replacements16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Tom May.