Stuart Hooper's side play host to a newly-promoted Newcastle Falcons on Saturday as the Blue, Black and White start up their 2020/21 campaign at the Rec (kick-off 12:30, BT Sport Extra).
Bath Rugby’s only regular season defeat in the last nine rounds of Gallagher Premiership Rugby was 23- 27 at home to Wasps on 31 August. Bath have slipped to opening weekend defeats in each of the past two seasons, both encounters being away trips to Bristol Bears.
Newcastle Falcons return to Gallagher Premiership Rugby after a one-year absence having won every game they played in level two last season. The Falcons have lost their last five Premiership Rugby fixtures since beating Sale in the ‘Big One’ at St James’ Park in March 2019.
Bath beat Newcastle in their most recent Premiership Rugby clash at the Recreation Ground in February 2019 to end a four-game losing run to the Tynesiders.
Date:21 November 2020
Competition: Gallagher Premiership R1
Where: The Rec
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Philip Watters & Robert Warburton
TMO: David Rose
Citing Officer: Jay Curts
Media Coverage: BBC Radio Bristol
JOSH MCNALLY’S THOUGHTS AHEAD OF FALCONS ENCOUNTER
“I was lucky enough to be able to captain the side once before during last season. It was great to be asked by Hoops (Stuart Hooper) to fill the boots of Charlie (Ewels) whilst he has been away. It is a huge honour, but we do have an unbelievable leadership team at Bath Rugby with natural leaders like Rhys Priestland and Ben Spencer, they naturally contribute a lot to lead the side.
“To be captain, there isn’t really much I have to do differently other than toss a coin for kick-off at the start, but it’s the honour of being captain that counts, leading out some great friends. It's more down to how we cope as a leadership group with the eight guys that we have in the squad throughout the week.”
On Newcastle’s intentions
“I have been in the same shoes as Newcastle, being promoted from the Championship into the Premiership. They are going to be fired up and they are going to want to show the Premiership what they have been missing. We know they are going to come here wanting it, It could be quite a scrappy game in that sense as they have played two warm up games, but they haven’t played since March 2020.
“We also haven’t played in five weeks now, so it is going to be a game of who battles without the ball best. First and foremost, we know it’s going to be a physical encounter and it’s something that we had been working on well since restart last season and we are hoping that can continue.”
On squad rotation and internationals absence
“It’s good to be back at the Rec, we haven’t been there since September against Gloucester as our last two games of the season were both away. It will be good to be back there and back to where we feel comfortable. The squad will obviously look very different with almost ten guys away on international duty.
“There are guys here that now have an opportunity to put their hands up and particularly guys that didn’t get much of a put in post-restart. There is a really good energy around the place, and we can’t wait to get Saturday underway with a slightly different look Bath side out on the field.”
Newcastle’s Current Form
Newcastle Falcons 21 – 12 Ealing Trailfinders | Friendly
Ealing Trailfinders 38 – 17 Newcastle Falcons | Friendly
Newcastle Falcons 41 – 0 Bedford Blues | Championship
Jersey Reds 3 – 38 Newcastle Falcons | Championship
Newcastle Falcons 28 – 5 London Scottish | Championship
Last Time Out
Joe Cokanasiga’s acrobatic first-half score helped Bath Rugby continue their impressive recent Gallagher Premiership Rugby form and avenge a pre-Christmas defeat to Newcastle Falcons with a bonus-point win at the Rec.
Falcons defeated Bath 16-8 at Kingston Park back in Round 8 but an efficient performance in the West Country means the hosts have now lost just one of their last five Gallagher Premiership Rugby games.
Conversely, Newcastle have lost nine of their last ten matches in all competitions and conceded three first-half tries to Semesa Rokoduguni, Cokanasiga and Will Chudley before Francois Louw secured the try bonus late on.