The Rec will host only its second Bath vs Bristol derby in ten years this weekend as this local derby returns as a key Premiership match.
Recent history of Bath vs Bristol Bears
Last season’s match was moved to Twickenham for the inaugural “The Clash” fixture. Therefore, it is the first time the Bath faithful will get to enjoy this derby at The Rec since 2016.
Don't miss out. 12 miles separate us. It's the big one.
West Country Derby.
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) February 26, 2020
Despite their long exile in the Championship it is Bristol who have gained the upper hand in recent times. They emphatically defeated Bath on the season’s curtain raiser, repeating their opening day win in 2018/19 at Ashton Gate.
Bath did win at Twickenham last year, as well as triumphing in that 2016 match at home. So at the moment, the home side generally comes out on top in this fixture. That, coupled with Bath’s strong home form this season suggest the Bears have a difficult task this weekend.
On the other hand, Bristol have recorded two impressive comeback wins away at Exeter and Northampton, so cannot be discounted. In fact they seem to have saved their best performances for away games.
Important match in the play-off race
Two places and one point separates these teams at the half way point of the season. It is only Bath’s lack of bonus points that is keeping them down in fifth place; they have recorded seven wins, second only to leaders Exeter.
This season’s results imply that it will be close on the scoreboard, with Bath’s biggest home winning margin only nine points. Their success has been based on a solid defence and consistently strong goal kicking, mostly from Rhys Priestland.
Chance to prove title credentials
Northampton’s three consecutive defeats has opened the door to a number of sides, including these two, to a home semi-final spot. Based on the current league standings, there are at least five clubs in close competition for three play-off spots, and several others just a couple of wins away.
🚨 DERBY WEEK! 🚨
It's going to be BIG one 🙌 pic.twitter.com/DS8rATuL9S
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) February 24, 2020
As it stands, Bath and Bristol are well placed to claim play-off places, something neither side has experienced for a number of years. This match has to the potential to energise a run towards the Premiership final and perhaps more.
Both clubs have announced some high-profile signings in recent days and weeks, and are likely to get stronger and stronger in the coming months and years.
This gives the derby even more importance: a recipe for a thrilling local derby that hasn’t been seen at the top level for too long.
Rhys Webb will make his Bath debut and link up with fellow Welsh international Rhys Priestland at half back. Elsewhere Will Stuart and Taulupe Faletau return from international duty, whilst Zach Mercer drops out of the squad.
Rhys Webb makes his first start for the Blue, Black and White against Bristol Bears this Sunday. Get your tickets now!
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) February 28, 2020
Bristol have made seven changes from their win over Worcester with Jordan Crane and Yann Thomas making their first appearances of the season. In-form Nathan Hughes only makes the bench but is joined by Ian Madigan and Ospreys-bound Mat Protheroe.
📢| Here's your 2⃣3⃣ man squad to face @bathrugby in the West Country derby 🙌
UP THE BEARS! 🐻 pic.twitter.com/RvwCqdXtsj
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) February 28, 2020
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images