Injury-hit Bath have gone cold on the road
Scarlets v Ulster
BBC2 Wales & NI, 7.35pm Friday
Bath v Newcastle
BT Sport 1, 7.45pm Friday
Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards claims to have “a very happy camp” at Kingston Park and things could look even brighter as the Falcons look good value to claim a home win over Bath.
Although a Premiership home record of won three, lost four doesn’t look particularly impressive, league leaders Wasps had to come back from 10-0 down to edge a close game 34-30 last week and there is no doubt the club have been building in confidence after some reverses earlier in the season.
Bath are hanging on in the top four despite last week’s home defeat to Exeter but they have lost their last four on the road in all competitions and a long Friday night trek north so soon after their last-minute defeat to the Chiefs will be a lot to take on.
The artificial surface at Newcastle ought to suit the exciting Bath backline, which is bolstered by the return from injury of pacy England star Anthony Watson at full-back.
But the visitors may be found wanting up front where they are missing a lot of bulk and experience through injury. Front-row Nick Auterac, Ross Batty and Henry Thomas are out, so academy prop Beno Obano is on the bench alongside hooker Jack Walker, who will make his debut if he comes on.
Taulupe Faletau is the biggest miss of all – 19-year-old Zach Mercer takes his place at number eight – while England lock Dave Attwood joins back-rowers Charlie Ewels and David Denton on the sidelines.
Both sides took early leads in their matches last weekend and failed to hang on, so there may be some merit in backing the Falcons with a two-point start.
In the Pro12 Scarlets are four-point favourites to gain an edge in their battle for a top-four spot against rivals Ulster. The Welsh outfit have won their last five home league matches since an opening-day defeat to Munster.
Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac has made 11 changes to the side who beat Cardiff last time out as the club face their third game in less than two weeks. Ulster have international quartet Rory Best, Iain Henderson, Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall back in their line-up.
Montpellier are nine-point favourites for their Top 14 clash with Bordeaux (Sky Sports 2, 7.45pm).
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