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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Brave Bath expected to put Saints to the test

Scarlets can shade Ulster at the Kingspan

Bath’s Kahn Fotuali’i (left) on the charge against Saracens
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Northampton v Bath
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Friday
Ulster v Scarlets
BBC2 N Ireland & Wales/TG4, 7.35pm Friday

Bath won seven of their first eight Premiership games last season – beginning with a gutsy 18-14 success at Northampton – and they look worth a wager with a two-and-a-half-point start in Friday's televised encounter at Franklin's Gardens.

The Rec lads beat Leicester 27-23 at Welford Road on the opening Sunday and followed that with a 31-21 home victory over Saracens last Saturday.

The Saints were smashed 55-24 by Sarries at Twickenham and while they delighted the Gardens faithful with their 24-11 East Midlands derby slaying of Leicester last Saturday, success has come at a cost. England skipper and hooker Dylan Hartley has joined back-row mainstay Tom Wood on the sidelines.

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Premiership season preview

Premiership top tryscorer

Premiership team guide

More evidence is needed that life is rosy again for the Saints and Bath have defied a front-row injury crisis to tame the Tigers and then rally again to beat Saracens. Star South Africa flanker Francois Louw is rested but Sam Underhill makes his debut after a summer move from Ospreys.

Underhill, Charlie Ewels, ex-Saint Kahn Fotuali'i and Ben Tapuai are four international-calibre changes by away head coach Todd Blackadder.

Elsewhere, champ­ions Exeter are asked to give up 11 points to winless hosts Worcester, while London Irish get an 11-point start at Sale.

Ulster are usually strong at the Kingspan Stadium but the layers may be right to think that May's final Pro12 champions Scarlets will shade the televised Pro14 scrap. Take the 9-5 about an away win by one to 12 points on what is expected to be a clear but fresh evening in Belfast.

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Pro 14 season preview

Pro 14 top tryscorer

Pro 14 team guide

Pro 14 conferences

Scarlets boss Wayne Pivac names virtually his strongest side – British & Irish Lions' player-of-the-tour Jonathan Davies is only on the bench – and they have enjoyed easy wins over the Southern Kings and Zebre.

Ulster are without star Kiwi full-back Charles Piutau, bruising South African back-rower Marcel Coetzee and a few more first-teamers. They made hard work of last week’s win at Treviso.

The Italians get a 24-point start at two-from-two Edinburgh while Dragons are predominantly asked to give up two points to Connacht.

Bath +2.5
2pts 4-5 BoyleSports
Scarlets to win by one to 12 points
1pt 9-5 Coral, Ladbrokes

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Ulster are usually strong at the Kingspan Stadium but the layers may be right to think that champions Scarlets will shade the televised Pro14 scrap
E.W. Terms
Sky bet