Sam Burgess will start, with Peter Stringer to feature at scrumhalf, as Bath intend to use every arrow in their quiver to stop Leinster in the Champions Cup quarter-final on Saturday.
"Peter will be involved this weekend," said Bath coach Mike Ford. "Look, you squeeze that toothpaste! We must get the best out of him and there is still a lot left in Peter for us this season and somebody else next season.
“He offers a hell of a lot against Leinster in Dublin, especially in a European quarter-final.”
Stringer, 38 in December, turned down a “mentoring, coaching” role with Bath next season as he seeks another club. The Cork man has started one match for Bath this season, the opening Premiership fixture against Sale in September, making just seven more appearances off the bench, the last being the February 21st defeat to Northampton.
Burgess will probably start at inside centre despite wearing 13 when Jonathan Joseph was tearing up Welsh, Italian, Scottish and French defences during his debut Six Nations campaign.
Indications are that Kyle Eastmond will drop to the bench as England's potential World Cup midfield – George Ford, Burgess and Joseph – take the field in Dublin.
Rate him highly
“Yes,” Ford replied when asked if Burgess can make England’s 31-man squad next September. “And it’s not just what I see everyday, it’s Stuart Lancaster’s opinion of him; Sam’s been in every Six Nations training squad. They rate him very highly as well.
“The more quarter-finals and semi-finals he plays, the better his chances will be.”
Burgess, already a rugby league legend, is poised to collide with Ben Te'o, a team-mate when the South Sydney Rabbitohs ended a 43-year wait for an NRL premiership title last year.
Having recovered from a broken arm on his debut, Te’o has started at outside centre in Leinster’s last five matches.
However, Ford must plan an unlikely victory without two England-capped tighthead props, David Wilson and Henry Thomas.
“Kane Palma-Newport is a young kid, only 24, but in the Premiership he has done really well for us. But this is another step up. Not unlike playing against Ireland really.”
It's exactly like Ireland in the sense that Cian Healy will be relieved by Jack McGrath.
"Max Lahiff will come off the bench for us," said Ford. "More or less a loosehead who can play tighthead but he played a full season in Australia [in 2014 with the Melbourne Rebels] at tighthead."
Some 39,000 tickets have already been sold for the Saturday’s match at the Aviva.
Meanwhile, Charles Piutau will join Ulster on a two-year deal but not until July 2016. The 23-year-old utility back – he can play anywhere from 12 to 15 – is the latest All Black to sign a post-World Cup contract with a European club.
The shifting trend, initiated by the likes of Jerome Kaino and Ma Nonu after the 2011 tournament, is essentially a mid-career break from international rugby. However, those leaving New Zealand are getting increasingly younger.
Piutau may also take up a short-term yet lucrative contract in Japan before arriving in Belfast.
His arrival means at least one of the permitted five non-Irish eligible players will not have their Ulster contract renewed for the 2016/17 season. Ruan Pienaar is contracted up to July 2017, while ‘project player’ Wiehahn Herbst will be a year off being Irish qualified, so one from
, Franco van der Merwe and
will definitely move on.
Ludik and Piutau are both predominantly seen as fullbacks, a position once occupied by established Ireland centre Jared Payne.
Either way, it's a genuine coup for Ulster's incoming director of rugby Les Kiss as it proves the best southern hemisphere players can still be enticed to Irish provinces.
New Zealand media sources are reporting Piutau’s two-year contract will earn him NZ$2 million or €700,000 a season.
Ulster have confirmed that Stuart Olding needs a second knee reconstruction in 16 months, ruling him out of Ireland's World Cup plans. The 22-year-old only returned from January's elbow injury in Friday's 36-17 defeat of Cardiff. He is facing nine months of rehabilitation.