30 September 2005
John Connolly has named a strong side for Saturday's opening Powergen Cup pool match against Bristol Rugby at the Recreation Ground (2.15pm).
The Bath Rugby head coach has made just four changes to the side that defeated Newcastle 27-16 in the Guinness Premiership last weekend with Pieter Dixon and Nick Abendanon making their first starts for the club, whilst Duncan Bell and Gareth Delve return to the starting XV.
For Abandanon, the England Under 19 international who has played in all of Bath Rugby's Guinness Premiership A league fixtures this season, the chance to make his first team debut at the Recreation Ground is something that he is relishing.
"I have been on the bench a few times over the past season, but have not actually got on, so this is something that I am really looking forward to," he said to www.bathrugby.com "This is a massive opportunity for me to show what I am capable of. It is a big step up in my career, but something that is extremely exciting. To be making my Bath debut in a big Cup match at the Rec is awesome."
As last season's finalists, Bath Rugby enter the new-look Powergen Cup viewing the competition as both an opportunity and Connolly believes that it represents a great chance to secure a coveted Heineken Cup place.
"This is a competition worth winning," explained Connolly. "There is that Heineken Cup prize, whilst two of the pool matches are at the Rec which is a big bonus too. We are looking forward to the weekend."
Bristol have made a cracking start to the Guinness Premiership season, but have made fifteen changes ahead of Saturday's game. However, Connolly is taking nothing for granted as there will still be plenty of first team experience lining up for Richard Hill's side.
"Bristol have made a few changes for the game," he said. "However, derby matches in the Cup are always different affairs and I am sure that those who have been selected have a great deal to prove and intend to take their opportunity with both hands."
The weather forecast is good at this stage and there are still some good tickets available for the match. To book a ticket or to find out about the special ticket offers for the match please call the Bath Rugby Ticket Office on 0871 721 1865.
Bath Rugby side to face Bristol Rugby
Saturday 1st October 2005
15 Nick ABENDANON
14 David BORY
13 Tom CHEESEMAN
12 Ryan DAVIS
11 Andy HIGGINS
10 Olly BARKLEY
9 Martyn WOOD
1 Matt STEVENS
2 Pieter DIXON
3 Duncan BELL
4 Steve BORTHWICK �
5 Danny GREWCOCK
6 Andy BEATTIE
7 James SCAYSBROOK
8 Gareth DELVE
16 Lee MEARS
17 David BARNES
18 Chris GOODMAN
19 James HUDSON
20 Andy WILLIAMS
21 Chris MALONE
22 Salesi FINAU
After sticking as far as possible to a very settled team in the opening weeks of the season, Bristol Rugby Head Coach Richard Hill makes wholesale changes for the opening Powergen Cup fixture at Bath on Saturday.
That said, it's still a team that boasts a huge amount of first team experience even taking into account the number of changes.
The back three has pace to burn and Sean Marsden, Marko Stanojevic and David Lemi all know their way to the try line.
Sam Cox and Mark Denney hook up in the centre and Danny Gray and Greg Nicholls have played alongside each other many times at half back and have both seen Guinness Premiership action this season.
The front row is largely the one that has been on A league duty this season with Mark Irish and Wayne Thompson packing down either side of Neil Clark at hooker.
Olly Kohn and Ollie Hodge have played together many times at first team level in the second row and there is plenty of experience and talent in a back row of Roy Winters, Joe El Abd and Dan Ward-Smith.
The bench shows the value of the Academy set up amongst the forwards with Danny Howick, Alun Hiett, Dave Attwood and Redford Pennycook all products of that system whilst the replacement backs would grace most Premiership squads.
Richard Hill was upbeat about his selection and happy to talk through the thinking behind it on Thursday:
"We've got a squad of 43 players and I had to select 15 for the first game. In some respects that was a bit of a gamble but the players agreed that we should pick a core side and stick with that in terms of continuity."
"But there are a number of players in that 43 man squad who could justifiably claim that they're worth a first team place but they've not had much of an opportunity. Looking down the list, there's Dan Ward-Smith, Joe El Abd, Roy Winters, Mark Denney, Sam Cox and others. They were all bitterly disappointed not to be in the starting lineup for that first game."
"So, it's given those now an opportunity to come in and stake a claim, against good opposition, to be in the first team for the next phase of matches."
"We do have a few senior citizens in our side who need to be looked after! They can't be expected to play 30 odd games. There are also a few injuries to look after - Gareth Llewellyn and Craig Short and there are longer term injuries to the likes of Mark Regan and Alex Clarke."
"Lots of the boys who will play on Saturday helped Bristol back into the Premiership. They're good players and have been disappointed not to have been involved more to date."
"We've got good depth in the squad. It's not a situation where we've got 20 very good players and then we're down to the kids when we pick up a few injuries. Most of these lads have played a lot of first team rugby."
"It's an exciting line up. The challenge will obviously be to get enough ball off Bath as Newcastle found out last week when Bath took a stranglehold in the second half. It'll certainly be a test for our front row. I've just had a chat with them and they're really looking forward to it."
The two sides have met on six previous occasions in the cup, including the final in 1984. Bristol's only success in those matches to date was 24-15 on their very first cup meeting at the Rec on 22 November 1975.
The two have already met in the Premiership this season with Bristol winning a thriller 19-16 at Memorial Stadium on the opening weekend of the new season.
Bristol also won the last time they visited the Rec: 30-19 in the Premiership on 24 November 2002.
Bristol Rugby: Sean Marsden, Marko Stanojevic, Sam Cox, Mark Denney, David Lemi, Danny Gray, Greg Nicholls, Mark Irish, Neil Clark, Wayne Thompson, Olly Kohn, Ollie Hodge, Roy Winters, Joe El Abd (capt), Dan Ward-Smith
Replacements:Danny Howick, Alun Hiett, Dave Attwood, Redford Pennycook, Jacob Rauluni, Jon Pritchard, Andy Reay