x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Improving Bath face Tigers test

Bath face a major test of their title credentials - and their head coach Steve Meehan admits his team are not firing on all cylinders

Bath face a major test of their title credentials - and their head coach Steve Meehan admits his team are not firing on all cylinders. Despite losing just two league games this season, the Premiership leaders only played in patches during the Christmas period as they carved out home wins against Sale Sharks and Northampton.

Fifth-placed Leicester are next up at Welford Road, where Bath will be greeted by a 17,498 sell-out crowd. Meehan said: "We are not playing as well as we can. But having said that, I think we are getting better and there is time to keep on improving. "Going up to Welford Road will indeed focus the mind even greater than on any other away trip, and hopefully we can continue with that rate of improvement."

The scrum-half Scott Bemand faces his former club as Meehan makes several changes after victory over Northampton last time out. Bemand replaces Michael Claassens, who scored two tries against Saints, while there are also starts for the likes of the full-back Nick Abendanon, prop David Barnes, hooker Pieter Dixon and lock Justin Harrison. The Leicester fly-half Toby Flood is rested under the England Elite Squad agreement, with the fit-again South African Derick Hougaard replacing him. The full-back Geordan Murphy and lock Ben Kay, meanwhile, also return to the Tigers line-up after injuries, with Kay partnered at lock by the former England captain Martin Corry.

The Wasps rugby director Ian McGeechan recalls several England players among 10 changes following the Boxing Day defeat against Sale for today's Adams Park appointment with Harlequins. The captain Phil Vickery, fly-half Danny Cipriani, wing Paul Sackey and flanker Tom Rees are among those back in action, but Josh Lewsey, Tom Palmer and Joe Worsley miss out through injury. Quins, looking to complete a Premiership double over Wasps this season, give a start to Chris Brooker in the front row instead of hooker Tani Fuga, with Gonzalo Tiesi resuming his centre partnership alongside Jordan Turner-Hall.

And the Quins' England wing Ugo Monye has hailed the impact of the New Zealand fly-half Nick Evans, whose December displays were pivotal to memorable home and away Heineken Cup victories over Stade Francais. Monye, who opposes England colleague Sackey today, said: "Nick has had an impact on creating the environment we have at the club." * PA Sport