You wait months for a West Country derby against Bristol Bears and then two come along at once…
Bath Rugby head to Ashton Gate for their second consecutive match with their nearest rivals hoping to add to the euphoric feeling that followed the last-gasp victory over them a fortnight ago.
The Premiership Rugby Cup is not a competition that has seen the two sides meet all too often with appearances in the Powergen Cup and EDF Energy Cup coming in 2005 and 2006 respectively.
Skills Coach Ryan Davis, and incoming Attack Coach Joe Maddock, are the only links to Friday’s contest from those matches with the only other Cup meetings coming in the Challenge Cup – Maddock scoring in the 2007 encounter.
Back to present day and this weekend’s match is an opportunity for the club’s younger players to get game time in a tournament which has previously helped blood the likes of Max Ojomoh, Tom de Glanville, Josh Bayliss, Miles Reid and Arthur Cordwell.
It also presents a chance for those needing minutes following injury as Premiership Rugby Cup Lead and Blue, Black and White Scrum Coach Mark Lilley explains.
“With the break week last week, it probably allows us to put out a slightly more balanced team. We will select people that need game time and there are people who are coming back from injury who need minutes under their belt.
“We have a tough block of Premiership fixtures coming up, so we’ve selected appropriately, looking at the bigger picture. We’ve got to make sure we’re topping people up to make sure they can make a big impression over the next few weeks and months, but there’s also an element of development.”
Lilley continued: “We’ve had everyone together this week and everyone has been focused on putting everything into Friday.
“We’ve had some really strong training sessions off the back of it and we’re really excited for the match.”
BEARS IN THE PREMIERSHIP RUGBY CUP
Both of Bristol’s Premiership Rugby Cup matches have been on the road this season with Pat Lam’s side opting for a blend of youth and experience.
In their first encounter at Sandy Park, they found themselves 14-0 down to Exeter Chiefs before coming back to record a five-try victory. A penalty try, Sam Bedlow, Will Capon, Dan Thomas and Macenzzie Duncan securing victory.
In their second game, the Bears were on the wrong end of a 68-13 scoreline as Worcester Warriors went for experience and Bristol an extremely youthful 23.