It should be a fantastic semi-final,” said Baxter. “Now that things are sorted and we know we are playing Bath, it’s important we move on quickly. Although we didn’t know until Wednesday that we would be playing them, we had some expectations that it would be tough for Sale, particularly given what had happened with their tests – and the numbers that were involved, that they wouldn’t be able to play the semi-final.
Who: Exeter vs Bath
What: Gallagher Premiership semi-final
Where: Sandy Park, Exeter
When: Saturday 10th October, 2020 – 16:30 (UK)
“With that in mind, the coaches here have done a huge amount of prep to make sure we had as many things covered as possible, so that when we did get the final decision we were in a place to just go with things. Not knowing who we were going to play actually helped us a little bit, just because it allowed us to talk and focus more on ourselves, now we’ve just add in bits to cater for Bath.”
Referring to the unique circumstances of this extended season, Baxter added: “I often say to the players, nobody will win a competition like this again. In our case, we actually have the option of two competitions. I just hope and pray that there won’t be a scenario where we play big semi-finals and finals behind closed doors again, nor do we have midweek games, back-to-back games, European games back-to-back, because it is tough.”
There’s a lot more to Chiefs than that, not least the explosive power and intelligent game management personified by the Simmonds brothers, but it is perhaps Exeter’s calling card.And yet no team is closer in style to the Devon outfit than Bath, whose post-lockdown winning streak has been underpinned by set-piece solidity and the sort of short-range execution we’ve come to expect from their opponents this afternoon. Beno Obano’s try at Saracens last weekend is just the latest example.
Bath battled hard for a draw at Sarries but must eradicate the errors. They squandered two gilt-edged chances to go three scores up and the momentum shifted when Anthony Watson kicked out on the full in midfield. Conceding penalties in your own half, and thus the field position to set up lineout drives, is to invite a heap of trouble.
Bath make three changes after last week’s draw away at Saracens as they prepare for a first semi-final since 2015. Winger Joe Cokanasiga makes his return after spending 16 months out on the side lines following a knee injury. ameron Redpath moves into midfield to join Jonathan Joseph with the young England centre replacing Josh Matavesi, who is named on the bench. Flanker Tom Ellis comes back into the matchday 23 for Mike Williams.
Chiefs have used 57 different players since the league resumed in mid-August, but today’s side is virtually the same 23 that defeated Toulouse a fortnight ago.Jack Nowell misses out with a foot injury, so Olly Woodburn deputises. Ollie Devoto, another former Bath player, replaces Ian Whitten at centre and up front Jacques Vermeulen returns to the fold in place of Sam Skinner, who drops to the bench. At stake is a place in the Twickenham final on 24 October.
“Our guys have looked good in training this week and I think we’re ready to go,” said Chiefs DoR Rob Baxter. “I often say to the players, nobody will win a competition like this again. In our case, we actually have the option of two competitions. I just hope and pray there won’t be a scenario where we play big semi-finals and finals behind closed doors again, nor do we have midweek games, back-to-back games, European games back-to-back, because it is tough.
“That said, our guys are coming through these experiences very well. If we have the three weeks we really want and need as a club, this will be something that lives with me for the rest of my life. And it will be something we’re all able to talk about with a lot of pride.”