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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Thursday, October 17th 2019

Preview: Bath (h) - Gallagher Premiership

Bristol Bears kick off the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership season with a mouthwatering West Country derby against Bath at a sold out Ashton Gate on Friday night (7.45pm KO).

A stadium record attendance (for sport) of 26,399 will pack into BS3 for the season's curtain-raiser, as Pat Lam's men welcome Stuart Hooper's Bath for a repeat of last season's opening fixture.

Bristol head into the game with two wins and two defeats in the Premiership Rugby Cup, while Bath won three of their four cup fixtures, culminating in a 26-24 victory over Gloucester last weekend.

Here's everything you need to know about Friday's clash.

Match details:

  • Date: Friday, October 18th
  • Kick-off: 7.45pm
  • Competition: Gallagher Premiership
  • Where: Ashton Gate
  • Officials: Referee: Tom Foley. Assistans: Jack Makepeace & Simon McConnell. No.4: Jonathan Healy. Timekeeper: Matthew Peters. TMO: Stuart Terheege.
  • Media coverage: BBC Radio Bristol, BT Sport, Channel 5 Highlights 
  • This fixture is SOLD OUT. 

Team news

Director of Rugby Pat Lam is boosted by the return of two of his key players, as Luke Morahan and Charles Piutau are both named to start.

After two man of the match performances and three tries in the Premiership Cup, Mat Protheroe earns a spot in the backline.

Bears select four homegrown players in the starting line-up, as Joe Joyce, Dave Attwood, Callum Sheedy and Andy Uren are all selected, while fellow Bristolian Yann Thomas is among the replacements.

Bristol Bears team to face Bath Rugby at Ashton Gate on Friday, October 18th (7.45pm KO):

15. Charles Piutau; 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Piers O’Conor, 12. Will Hurrell, 11. Mat Protheroe; 10. Callum Sheedy, 9. Andy Uren; 1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Harry Thacker, 3. John Afoa, 4. Dave Attwood, 5. Joe Joyce, 6. Steven Luatua (c), 7. Dan Thomas, 8. Nathan Hughes.

Replacements: 16. Shaun Malton, 17. Yann Thomas, 18. Max Lahiff, 19. Chris Vui, 20. Jake Heenan, 21. Harry Randall, 22. Ioan Lloyd, 23. Alapati Leiua.

Bath Rugby:

15. Tom Homer, 14. Aled Brew, 13. Max Clark, 12. Max Wright, 11. Levi Davis, 10. Rhys Priestland, 9. Will Chudley; 1. Beno Obano, 2. Tom Dunn, 3. Christian Judge, 4. Josh McNally, 5. Charlie Ewels (c), 6. Mike Williams, 7. Tom Ellis, 8. Zach Mercer.

Replacements: 16. Jack Walker, 17. Lewis Boyce, 18. Will Stuart, 19. Elliott Stooke, 20. Josh Bayliss, 21. Chris Cook, 22. Freddie Burns, 23. Jamie Roberts.

Last time out

Friday, August 31th 2018 | Bristol Bears 17-10 Bath Rugby | Gallagher Premiership

Alapati Leiua’s 73rd-minute try fired Bristol Bears to a thrilling derby victory over Bath Rugby on the opening day of the new Gallagher Premiership season.

The Samoan wing gathered Luke Morahan’s offload to dive in seven minutes from time and send a capacity Ashton Gate crowd into raptures on a pulsating night in BS3.

Three penalties from the boot of Ian Madigan had given Pat Lam’s side a 9-0 lead early in the second-half, but Tom Homer’s 53rd-minute try – after an earlier mishap saw him spill the ball over the whitewash – together with a conversion and a penalty from the boot of Rhys Priestland, looked to have snatched it for Bath, with Tusi Pisi in the sin bin.

But Madigan’s fourth penalty on 69 minutes edged Bristol back in front, before Leiua lifted the roof of Ashton Gate with a try that will live long in the home fans' memory.

Read the full report here.

Word from the camp

Pat Lam hailed the Ashton Gate faithful as Bristol prepare to open the season in front of a record crowd on Friday night (7.45pm KO).

Over 26,000 supporters will flock to BS3 for the opening round of the Gallagher Premiership competition and Lam has urged his players to deliver on the big stage.

Subscribe to Bristol Bears TV by clicking here.

Form guide

Bristol Bears finished off last season unbeaten in the last four rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby, since Bath beat them at the Recreation Ground in ‘The Clash’ on April 6th.

The Bears are undefeated in any competition at Ashton Gate since Worcester won there 27-25 in round 17 of Premiership Rugby.

Bath Rugby have won their last two Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures since their 3-6 defeat at Sale on April 26th.

Bath won their most recent away game in Premiership Rugby 32-31 at Leicester to end a five-game losing run on the road in the competition.

Bristol’s only two victories over Bath in any competition since 2006 have both been at Ashton Gate in Premiership Rugby, in February 2017 and August 2018.

Bath have made six previous visits to Ashton Gate, winning twice, in Gallagher Premiership Rugby in March 2008 and in the European Challenge Cup in January 2017.

This is a repeat of last season’s round 1 fixture at Ashton Gate where Bath were defeated on the opening weekend for the first time in a decade.

Bristol Bears: WWL
Bath Rugby: WLW


Harry Thacker vs Tom Dunn

This is the battle of two England hopefuls, with Harry Thacker, fresh off the back of a breakthrough season in 2018/19, going head to head with Bath's Tom Dunn, who has already featured in an England training squad.

With a physical derby clash expected, the set-piece battle will be key to the result.

Charles Piutau vs Tom Homer

Charles Piutau makes his first appearance of the new season, starting at full back for this blockbuster clash.

The All Black flyer's opposite number is the experienced and reliable Tom Homer, who has made more than 100 appearances in the Premiership.

Statto's corner

  • Nathan Hughes makes his Gallagher Premiership debut for Bristol Bears
  • Ioan Lloyd could become youngest player to represent Bristol in the Premiership, aged 18 years and 196 days
  • 26,399 is a stadium record for sport at Ashton Gate
Ioan Lloyd set for his Premiership debut off the bench (JMPUK).

Match sponsor: Titcombe Jewellery

Match ball sponsor: CJ Hole

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