Bath v Exeter Chiefs Premiership Preview

Bath host Exeter Chiefs at The Recreation Ground

Bath have named their team to play Exeter Chiefs at the Rec on Saturday and have named Matt Garvey and Chris Cook to make their 50th appearances for the Club.

Nick Auterac, Ross Batty and Henry Thomas make their sixth start together in the Blue, Black and White front row.

Stuart Hooper captains the side in the second row, alongside Dave Attwood.

Blindside Garvey and number eight Leroy Houston are joined by openside Alafoti Faosiliva, fresh from his World Cup exploits with Samoa.

Scrum-half Cook and fly-half George Ford, who enjoyed a successful half-back partnership throughout much of last season, are united once again.

Kyle Eastmond and Matt Banahan are in the midfield, with Anthony Watson and Semesa Rokoduguni making up a lethal wing combination. Tom Homer is named at fullback.

New recruit Niko Matawalu, one of a number of returning World Cup players named in the squad, is in line to make his Premiership debut from the bench, along with backs Max Clark and Jeff Williams.

Bath Rugby’s single opening weekend loss in Aviva Premiership Rugby since 2006 came when they were defeated 5-24 at Gloucester in 2009.

Last season’s losing finalists ended their regular season campaign with six straight Premiership Rugby victories.

Bath have lost only once at the Recreation Ground in the tournament since March 2014: 13-21 to Northampton last February.

Exeter Chiefs have been defeated just once in round 1 since being promoted into Aviva Premiership Rugby for the first time in 2010: 11-38 at Northampton in 2013.

The Chiefs finished off last season with a pair of victories, at Saracens and at home to Sale Sharks.

Exeter beat Bath for the first time on their 10th meeting in Premiership Rugby at Sandy Park in February, whilst their only competitive victory at the Recreation Ground in any tournament was 22-19 in the semifinal of the Anglo-Welsh Cup in March 2014.

Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby Rob Baxter has resisted the temptation of bringing in his six of his seven World Cup stars and only England international Henry Slade has been included this week.

And even then the talented playmaker can only make the bench as the Chiefs leader sticks with an unchanged starting XV, which includes prop Ben Moon, who will be making his 100th league appearance for the club.

Keen to reward those who impressed not only last week, but also during the pre-season as a whole, never before has Baxter entered into a new season with such a wealth of riches from which to choose from.

Indeed, the make-up of Exeter’s opening starting line-up has a familiar feel with winger James Short the sole newcomer in Baxter’s plans. However, on the bench summer signings Ollie Atkins, Julian Salvi and former Bath flyer Olly Woodburn are included for the first time.

Exeter recorded a best-ever finish when they finished in fifth spot back in May – and they narrowly missed out on making the play-offs for the first time, albeit on points’ difference, despite finishing with a flourish.

It was, however, the Christmas period that ultimately proved costly, when a four-game losing streak saw them shed vital points on those around them. Baxter admits lessons were learned in the aftermath of that period and he knows a similar story this time round could again prove costly for him and his team.

“When you look at the points you need to be in the top six and the top four, there isn’t a lot of difference. It is only one or two wins,” said Baxter ahead of tomorrow’s curtain-raiser.

“We have just had our best year in the Premiership, we got to the quarter-final of a European competition and it is going to take some doing to live up to that. But that’s what you want. You want big challenges.

“A win in pre-season is a different animal to a win in the Premiership,” added Baxter. “We have to be prepared now for a step up in intensity and not just think we can roll into the Premiership.

“I have been involved for long enough now to know that when you have a good run of results, everything goes well in training, things are going the same way, it doesn’t mean it will happen on the Saturday. You have to have some stage in the week where you need to reset yourselves, things do need to change and you need more intensity and a bit more focus.

“Games at Bath are always fantastic, our supporters love going there and it is one of those games you want to be involved in. It’s a fantastic way to start the season.”

Match : Bath v Exeter Chiefs
Date : Saturday 17th October
Venue : Recreation Ground
Kick Off : 2pm
Live on: BT Sport
Match Officials
Referee :Tim Wigglesworth (96th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell and Gareth Copsey.
TMO: Rowan Kitt.

Teams

Bath

15 Tom Homer , 14 Semesa Rokoduguni , 13 Matt Banahan , 12 Kyle Eastmond , 11 Anthony Watson , 10 George Ford , 9 Chris Cook , 1 Nick Auterac , 2 Ross Batty , 3 Henry Thomas , 4 Stuart Hooper (c) , 5 Dave Attwood , 6 Matt Garvey , 7 Alafoti Faosiliva , 8 Leroy Houston

Replacements: 16 Rob Webber , 17 Max Lahiff , 18 David Wilson , 19 Sam Burgess , 20 Guy Mercer , 21 Niko Matawalu , 22 Max Clark , 23 Jeff Williams.

Exeter Chiefs

15 Phil Dollman , 14 Matt Jess , 13 Ian Whitten , 12 Sam Hill , 11 James Short , 10 Gareth Steenson (capt) , 9 Will Chudley , 1 Ben Moon , 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie , 3 Alex Brown , 4 Mitch Lees , 5 Damian Welch , 6 Dave Ewers , 7 Don Armand , 8 Thomas Waldrom

Replacments : 16 Jack Yeandle , 17 Alec Hepburn , 18 Moray Low , 19 Ollie Atkins , 20 Julian Salvi , 21 Dave Lewis , 22 Henry Slade , 23 Olly Woodburn

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