Preview: Bath v Bristol

Date published: November 17 2016

Max Clark and Taulupe Faletau both make their return from injury as Bath return to Premiership action against their nearest rivals, Bristol at the Recreation Ground.

Faletau, who was released by Wales to train with Bath and be available for selection this week, starts at number eight, with Guy Mercer on the openside and Tom Ellis on the blindside.

Elsewhere in the pack Elliott Stooke partners Matt Garvey in the engine room, with Nathan Catt and Kane Palma-Newport scrumming down in the front row either side of Ross Batty at hooker.

Clark returns to the midfield at outside centre, Matt Banahan linking up with him at number 12. Welsh duo Darren Allinson and Rhys Priestland, who is named as co-captain for the game, continue their half-back partnership, whilst Darren Atkins and Jack Wilson are named on the wings. Tom Homer completes the line-up from full-back.

From the bench, Tom Dunn could make his 50th appearance if called upon, and Australian centre, Ben Tapuai, who arrived at the Club this week, could make his debut.

Speaking ahead of the game, Todd Blackadder said: “We can’t wait to get out there on Friday, and it’s great to have Taulupe Faletau and Max Clark back amongst the mix – we’ve actually had a bit of a selection headache this week, which was an interesting change for us.

"We’ve got to pick ourselves back up after the disappointing start to the Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign and get back on the horse for this next block of crucial Premiership games.

"We know how much this game means to our supporters, and we’re going to do all we can to make sure they leave the Rec with a smile on their face."

Meanwhile, Marc Jones will make his first Premiership outing of the campaign when Bristol meet Bath.

The hooker – who made his return to action last weekend following a long-term knee injury – starts at the Recreation Ground in the hotly anticipated derby clash.

Jordan Williams and Ryan Edwards come back into the starting line-up, while Academy fly half Billy Searle is set to make his first Premiership start.

In the pack, Olly Robinson returns to the back row, while Jordan Crane continues as skipper.

“The guys are in positive spirits following last weekend’s victory, but we have to back that up with a performance against Bath in the Premiership,” acting head coach Mark Tainton said.

“These are the sort of games that players relish; a local derby in front of a full house. It’ll be a fantastic atmosphere and we know that the Bristol supporters will travel in great numbers.”

Form: Bath’s solitary defeat in their last eight Premiership matches was 14-34 at Leicester in Round 4. Bath have lost just once at the Recreation Ground in the Premiership since February: 10-30 to Saracens on 1 April. Bristol won their opening game of the season when Sale visited Ashton Gate for an Anglo-Welsh Cup tie last Friday. Bristol are still without a win in the Aviva since beating Worcester at Memorial Stadium in March 2009. The two sides have already met at the Recreation Ground this season in the European Challenge Cup, with Bath running out 22-6 victors on 5 October. Bristol’s most recent victory over Bath was 16-6 at Ashton Gate in the Premiership in December 2006, whilst their last win at the Recreation Ground was 19-12 the previous month. 

The teams:

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Darren Atkins, 13 Max Clark, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Jack Wilson, 10 Rhys Priestland (cc), 9 Darren Allinson, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Matt Garvey (cc), 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Kane Palma-Newport, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Paul Grant, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Will Homer, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Ben Tapuai

Bristol: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Jason Woodward, 12 Will Hurrell, 11 Jack Tovey, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Jordan Crane (c), 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Mitch Eadie, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Ian Evans, 3 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Kyle Traynor 
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Gaston Cortes, 19 James Phillips, 20 Jon Fisher, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Jack Wallace

Date: Friday, November 18
Venue: The Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Philip Watters, Roger Baileff
TMO: Rowan Kitt