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Preview: Bath v Exeter

07th March 2014 12:18

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Guy Mercer for Bath

Comeback: Guy Mercer

Guy Mercer will make his first start for Bath since October on Sunday as they welcome Exeter in the LV= Cup semi-final.

Mercer is joined in the back-row by the returning Matt Garvey on the blindside and Leroy Houston at number eight.

Ryan Caldwell joins captain Stuart Hooper in the engine room, with Eusebio Guinazu flanked at hooker by Nathan Catt and Argentina teammate Juan Pablo Orlandi.

In the half-backs, Martin Roberts and Tom Heathcote resume their partnership, with Horacio Agulla and Semesa Rokoduguni named out wide on the wings.

Ollie Devoto, nominated for this year's LV= Breakthrough Player award, combines with Gavin Henson in the midfield, whilst Nick Abendanon completes the line-up from full-back.

Meanwhile, Exeter boss Rob Baxter insists getting the "nuts and bolts right" will be the key to seeing off Bath in the LV= Cup semi-final.

Unlike previous rounds where Baxter again used the LV= Cup to utilise his playing squad to the full, this weekend it will be a near full-strength Chiefs line-up that takes to the field at The Rec.

Although missing Jack Nowell and Tom Johnson to England duty, the remainder of the Exeter team looks impressive.

Johnson's absence means Dave Ewers is shunted from number eight to blindside; Kai Horstmann anchors the scrum; whilst there is a first start since January for Chris Whitehead, who takes over at hooker from Luke Cowan-Dickie.

The back division remains untouched from last time out, but on the bench there are recalls for James Hanks and former Bath favourite James Scaysbrook.

"We'll be going full-on, for obvious reasons - it's the first time we've been in the semi-finals, the final's at Sandy Park and we want to keep some momentum from the win against London Irish," said Baxter.

"We've performed well at Bath in the last couple of years - we've scored tries and scored plenty of points, the key for us again is making sure we get our game-management right and defensively we're very sound. That will make us a difficult team to beat because we do score points."

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Martin Roberts, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Ryan Caldwell, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 2 Eusebio Guiñazú, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Mat Gilbert, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Ben Williams, 23 Matt Banahan

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Phil Dollman, 11 Tom James, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Ben White, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (c), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Chris Whitehead, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 James Hanks, 20 James Scaysbrook, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Fetu'u Vainikolo

Date: Sunday, March 9
Venue: The Recreation Ground
Kickoff: 13:00 GMT
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth (England)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Pearce (England), Robin Goodliffe (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

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