Preview: Bath v Exeter Chiefs

Date published: December 30 2016

Bath have made three changes ahead of the final Premiership game of 2016 against Exeter Chiefs on New Year’s Eve at the Recreation Ground.

All three changes come in the pack, where Tom Dunn is named at hooker, supported either side by Nathan Catt and Max Lahiff.

The versatile Matt Garvey moves into the second row, where he will be joined by Dave Attwood, who was one of Bath’s four try scorers last weekend against Wasps.

Tom Ellis and Zach Mercer are the new faces in the back row at blindside flanker and number eight, with Francois Louw continuing his run back in the team at openside flanker.

In an unchanged backline, Tom Homer continues at full-back with the wings occupied by Aled Brew and Semesa Rokoduguni. Ben Tapuai, who scored his first try for the club last time out, continues his partnership in the centre with Jonathan Joseph, while Kahn Fotuali’i and George Ford are once again the half-back pairing.

There is also a welcome return to the squad for England international Anthony Watson, who could make his first appearance for Bath since the start of October from the bench.

Todd Blackadder, Director of Rugby said: “The team are really looking forward to this weekend and are determined to end the calendar year on a high. There are areas where we will need to improve on from Wasps, but I have every confidence that they can do that on Saturday.

“It has been a hectic first half of the season with injuries and call-ups, but the squad have shown a great deal of character to get the results needed week after week to remain in the top three.

“We are now nearly back to full strength, so it is important that we give the likes of Ross, Luke and Toby the opportunity to recuperate for a crucial period for the club in January.”  

Meanwhile, Exeter boss Rob Baxter sticks with a largely unchanged starting line-up.

The sole change comes in the back division where England international Henry Slade is ruled out with the neck/shoulder injury that forced him off in the first half against the Tigers.

Thankfully, scans have shown nothing to be broken, but his place will be filled this weekend by Sam Hill, who will partner former Bath favourite Ollie Devoto in the midfield. On the bench, Joe Simmonds fills the void left by Hill’s promotion.

Form: Bath Rugby’s last four matches in Premiership Rugby have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst they have not been defeated at the Recreation Ground in the tournament since Saracens were the visitors on April 1. Exeter Chiefs have won their last four Premiership Rugby fixtures since Bath beat them 13-10 at Sandy Park in Round Seven. Exeter have won their last three away games in all competitions but have not won four in a row on the road away from home in the same season since 2011/12. Bath are attempting to achieve a first Premiership Rugby double over the Chiefs since season 2013/14 whilst Exeter’s only previous victory at Bath in any tournament is 22-19 in the semi-final of the Anglo-Welsh Cup in March 2014.

The teams:

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Aled Brew, 10 George Ford (cc), 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Tom Ellis, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Matt Garvey (cc), 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Max Clark, 23 Anthony Watson

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 James Short

Date: Saturday, December 31
Venue: Recreation Ground
Time: 15:00 Local
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Greg Garner, Phil Watters
TMO: Geoff Warren