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Premiership Preview – Bristol v Bath

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The 2018/19 Premiership season kicks off at Ashton Gate on Friday where newly promoted Bristol hostBath in a highly-anticipated West Country derby.

Six players will make their competitive debuts for the Bears.

Pat Lam’s men face Bath in front of a club record crowd at Ashton Gate and the head coach hands maiden starts to Luke Daniels and Nic Stirzaker in the backline.

Meanwhile, in the pack, Yann Thomas, Harry Thacker and John Afoa form a new-look front row partnership, while George Smith is included at openside.

New Zealand international Steven Luatua will skipper the side for the round one West Country derby clash.

Charles Piutau (shoulder) misses out, while another new arrival – Aly Muldowney (neck) – is also unavailable for selection.

Meanwhile, Matt Garvey will captain Bath against their West Country rivals.

Garvey starts at second-row alongside Dave Attwood, who impressed in the victories over Edinburgh and Scarlets in an unbeaten pre-season campaign for the Blue, Black and White. Jack Walker lines up at hooker, with Nathan Catt and Henry Thomas completing a powerful front-row.

Zach Mercer starts at openside with Sam Underhill at blindside, and Taulupe Faletau completing the back-row at number eight.

Chris Cook will link-up with Rhys Priestland in the half-back combination, as Bath look to get their campaign off to a flying start. Jamie Roberts and Jackson Willison, who joined the Club from Harlequins and Worcester Warriors respectively over the summer, form an all new centre partnership.

Joe Cokanasiga starts on the left wing after scoring a brace against Scarlets, and the new arrival will be looking to bring his attacking power into Friday’s game. Semesa Rokoduguni makes his Premiership return on the right wing, with Tom Homer at full-back.

The teams:

Bristol: 15 Luke Daniels, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Tusi Pisi, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 George Smith, 6 Steven Luatua (c), 5 Chris Vui, 4 Ed Holmes, 3 John Afoa, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Jake Woolmore, 18 Jake Armstrong, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Jack Lam, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Ryan Edwards

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Zach Mercer, 5 Matt Garvey (c), 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Will Vaughan, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Max Green, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Aled Brew

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