Exiles hoping Catt will help them back to winning ways

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The Independent Online

Mike Catt will make a rare start for London Irish at Bath as the Exiles look to apply some pressure at the top of the Guinness Premiership today.

Irish lost ground to the leaders Saracens as Newcastle won at Vicarage Road last week and coach Toby Booth is keen to ensure that result was a blip. Booth sees no better way of reinvigorating his side than handing World Cup-winning veteran Catt, 38, his first start of the season against his former club Bath.

Catt, a legend at the Recreation Ground after 12 years with the West Country club, will play at inside centre in one of four changes made by Booth.

Booth said: "We are not used to losing in the Guinness Premiership and want to return to winning ways tomorrow evening. We've trained exceptionally well and honestly after last weekend's disappointment and are expecting to perform much more competitively against Bath."

Form favours Irish as Bath, although they drew at Worcester last weekend, have won only once in the Premiership this season. They are only three points better off than bottom side Leeds, who travel to coach Neil Back's former club Leicester.

The Tigers are 13 points better off than Leeds but the West Yorkshire side travel in good heart after a recent win over Wasps and last week's narrow loss to Sale. Their director of rugby Andy Key, another with strong Leicester connections, said: "I would be lying if I said that it wasn't a game that I was looking forward to because of the time Neil and I spent with the Tigers.

"Between us we spent nearly 40 years of our lives at the club and we have many great friends still there. However, we are very much all about Leeds Carnegie now and making Leeds a club that can challenge the likes of Leicester for the major honours in the game. Clearly we are not there yet but we are making good progress so far this season and we go there in good spirits."

Tigers will give a first start of the season to the England fly-half Toby Flood, who has been troubled by an Achilles problem since May.

Today's other match sees two struggling sides, Harlequins and Gloucester, meet at Twickenham Stoop.

Quins are boosted by the return of Danny Care and Ugo Monye from international duty and Nick Easter from injury. Olly Morgan and James Simpson-Daniel should be available for Gloucester, who want to build on last week's tryless win over Leicester.

Their head coach Bryan Redpath said: "The pressure was relieved last week but it hasn't gone away and we'll go down to Harlequins having worked hard Monday to Friday and will do everything we can to win the game."