West Country derby promises fiery fare

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The Independent Online

The visitors have a stack of England squad members in their party, from James Simpson-Daniel and the old Bath hand Mike Tindall in the backs, to Phil Vickery and James Forrester up front. The form player of the lot, Alex Brown, goes eyeball to eyeball with Steve Borthwick.

Bath, for their part, have Chris Malone at outside-half for this afternoon's match - a decision that will have the stuffy old dowagers in the members' stand spluttering into their headscarves. The coach, John Connolly, has chosen David Barnes, too, despite the news that the prop has been cited by an independent match commissioner for allegedly clouting an opponent during last weekend's Powergen Cup win over the Ospreys.

Northampton welcome David Gerard, the French lock, who is making his first start for the club in this afternoon's game with London Irish, as is Sam Harding, the back-rower from New Zealand. The England hooker Steve Thompson, drops to the bench.

The England coach, Andy Robinson, travels to Bristol, who play Saracens tomorrow afternoon, to run his eye over the West Country club's scrum-half, Shaun Perry, whose early-season form set plenty of tongues a-wagging. Perry is all muscle and attitude and a decent technician to boot.