sport

Bath youngsters impress Stringer

Peter Stringer has hailed the impact of Bath's young guns this season ahead of a key Premiership clash against title rivals Saracens on Friday.

Bath go into the Recreation Ground clash knowing that victory would consolidate third place and further enhance their hopes of securing a play-off spot.

Recent history in the fixture suggests a Saracens victory - they have toppled Bath seven times on the bounce - but the west country club boast an unbeaten record in all competitions this year.

Bath have also yet to taste defeat on home soil this season - a record matched only by Premiership leaders Northampton - and they are performing with an adventure and freshness driven by talent such as 20-year-olds George Ford and Anthony Watson.

Those contributions have not been lost on scrum-half Stringer, who despite being 16 years their senior, also continues to play a key part in Bath's push for the domestic summit.

"Anthony Watson and George Ford have been recognised at club level, and that has been a reflection of them being selected for the England squad," former Ireland and Munster number nine Stringer said.

"I think it is great that they have stepped up to the mark and are achieving their ambitions.

"They have brought a freshness to the squad - week in, week out. It has been one huge performance after another."

Bath won six league titles during the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, but they have not lifted English rugby's major prize since the Premiership was launched in 1997.

Stringer added: "Obviously, it is about getting Bath back to where they were once in the glory years of winning Premierships and Heineken Cups. That is where we want to take the club back to.

"There have been a lot of personnel changes this year. We have brought in a lot of younger guys and made a few signings.

"I think one of the main things for us is that the younger guys have stepped up to the mark and staked their claim within the team."

Saracens will be led by former Bath captain Steve Borthwick, while wing David Strettle replaces a rested Chris Ashton and makes his 100th appearance for the club.

Elsewhere, England pair Alex Goode and Mako Vunipola return from RBS 6 Nations duty, and centre Joel Tomkins continues his comeback from injury, partnering Brad Barritt in midfield.

Ford, who was on the England bench against Ireland last weekend, is among seven changes in a Bath team that also sees starts for the likes of wing Matt Banahan, prop Paul James and lock Dave Attwood.