Preview: Bath v Scarlets

Pic by Richard Early

By Ben Jones

Bath v Scarlets in the Heineken Champions Cup

Date: Saturday, December 12 2020

Venue: The Rec, Bath

Time: 15:15 PM

ATTENTIONS turn to Europe for Scarlets as they cross the border to face Bath in the first match of Pool A, in the Heineken Champions Cup.

The Scarlets are bolstered by the return of nine players who were involved with the Autumn internationals, namely Gareth Davies who will make his 200th appearance in Scarlets colours.

Bath too can be buoyed by the return of their international players. Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Sam Underhill and Taulupe Falatau were away with England and Wales respectively but are back in the Blue, Black and White to open up the European campaign.

The visitors have had a few weeks off to rest and recharge since they fell just short in an entertaining game at the Kingspan against Ulster, and they come into the game in good form after good performances against Connacht and the Ulstermen.

Bath beat out the Worcester Warriors 33-17 last weekend for their first win of the Premiership Campaign. A strong finish to last season saw the Blue, Black and White win four out of four in September and finish fourth in the table.

The two sides have met in the competition three times before, with their latest battle being back in 2018. Scarlets ran out 35-17 winners that day and will be in the hunt for something similar Saturday afternoon.

Scum-half Davies, who broke onto the scene and made his Scarlets debut 11 years ago, will hit the double century milestone few players before him have reached for the regional side. A win would the perfect way to celebrate, right?

The in-form Ryan Conbeer and Steff Evans take up the wing spots, with Wales and Lions full-back Leigh Halfpenny being the last line of defence.

Amongst the replacements, you’ll find Jonathan Davies and Kieran Hardy who were both involved with Wales over the Autumn period.

The Scarlets are faced with a few injuries to big names, however. Liam Williams has an ankle injury and Ken Owens is still recovering from his shoulder issue. The impressive Jonny Williams is also ruled out as he battles with a calf issue.

Speaking on the club website, Scarlets coach Glenn Delaney was happy to have players back from international duty and was excited at the prospect of the tie with Bath at the Rec.

“It was great to get the rest of the boys back in on Thursday and we are looking forward to what promises a big Anglo-Welsh clash at one of the best grounds to go to in the competition” he said.

“We are all aware of how much European competition means to the Scarlets and our supporters. We love this competition, we want to go well in it and really give a good account of ourselves.”

Gareth Davies might be making history Saturday night at the Rec, and it’s a ground he has fond memories of.

“Among those favourites moments in a Scarlets jersey, the 2018 European win at the Rec – the venue of tomorrow’s Champions Cup opener – stands out.

“It is one of my favourite victories in a Scarlets shirt, it was a special night. The moments that stand out? I enjoyed making that break and putting Parkesy under the sticks and, of course, Tadhg’s try when Patch fielded the ball and we went the length of the field.”

It’ll be a special night for the 30 year-old, one he’ll want to remember for all the right reasons.

TEAMS

BATH: 15) Anthony Watson; 14) Joe Cokanasiga, 13) Jonathan Joseph, 12) Cameron Redpath, 11) Ruaridh McConnochie; 10) Josh Matavesi, 9) Ben Spencer; 1) Beno Obano, 2) Tom Dunn, 3) Will Stuart, 4) Josh McNally, 5) Charlie Ewels (C), 6) Mike Williams, 7) Sam Underhill, 8) Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: 16) Jack Walker, 17) Juan Schoeman, 18) Christian Judge, 19) Elliott Stooke, 20) Josh Bayliss, 21) Zach Mercer, 22) Will Chudley, 23) Semesa Rokoduguni

SCARLETS: 15) Leigh Halfpenny; 14) Ryan Conbeer, 13) Tyler Morgan, 12) Steff Hughes (C), 11) Steff Evans; 10) Dan Jones, 9) Gareth Davies; 1) Wyn Jones, 2) Ryan Elias, 3) Samson Lee, 4) Jake Ball, 5) Sam Lousi, 6) Blade Thompson, 7) Jac Morgan, 8) Sione Kalamafoni

Replacements: 16) Marc Jones, 17) Rob Evans, 18) Javan Sebastian, 19) Morgan Jones, 20) Josh Macleod, 21) Kieran Hardy, 22) Angus O’Brien, 23) Jonathan Davies.