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by AlecW on Fri Nov 04, 2005 2:34 pm

Beattie to lead Bath Rugby against London Irish

4 November 2005, 11:24 am

By Dom Rumbles
A much-changed Bath Rugby side will make the trip to the Madejski Stadium tomorrow searching for a third successive Guinness Premiership victory.
The inclusion of five Bath Rugby players in the England twenty-two to play Australia next weekend, coupled with some niggling injuries, means that head coach John Connolly has been pressed into ringing the changes.
“We have five in the England twenty-two, which is great for those players and the club,” said Connolly. “Yes, we have to make changes to accommodate for those call-ups, but this is something that we planned for at the beginning of the season.”

With club captain Steve Borthwick, Danny Grewcock, Lee Mears, Matt Stevens and Olly Barkley all on England duty in come James Hudson, Rob Fidler, Pieter Dixon, David Barnes and Ryan Davis to the starting XV.

Andy Higgins also returns after suspension and starts at outside centre, whilst a freak training injury to Martyn Wood means that Nick Walshe starts at scrum half. There is also a place in the starting line-up for Joe Maddock. The Kiwi winger will be making his first start since sustaining a hamstring injury in the opening day defeat to Bristol Rugby.

“We have the likes of Rob Fidler and James Hudson to come into the second row and both are very good players,” Connolly said. “There is strength in depth in the pack, whilst Joe Maddock and Andy Higgins return in the backs division.”

The past couple of fixtures between the two sides have been nail-bitingly close and Connolly is expecting a very tough match at the Madejski Stadium tomorrow.

“These fixtures tend to be tight ones,” he said. “They are a very good side across the park this season and Brian Smith has recruited well. We are aware of their strengths and know that it will be a tough battle.

This is a very important stage of the season and we will be without our international players for the next four weeks. If we can come away from this block of four matches with three victories, then we will be pleased.”

The side will be captained by blindside flanker Andy Beattie.
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