European Challenge Cup: Bath v Montpellier


Wales and British and Irish Lions back-row Taulupe Faletau returns to the Bath side after being rested last week
Venue: The Recreation Ground, Bath Date: Saturday, 1 May Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Live score updates on BBC Radio Bristol, report on BBC Sport website

Wales’ Taulupe Faletau returns to the Bath side for their European Challenge Cup semi-final with Montpellier.

Faletau comes in at flanker for Miles Reid in one of three changes to the side which lost at Wasps last week.

Will Stuart replaces Henry Thomas at prop, while Ben Spencer starts at scrum-half as Bath aim for a first European final in seven years.

Orlando Bailey continues at fly-half, with Rhys Priestland yet to recover from a hamstring injury.

Sam Underhill plays his 50th match for Bath against a French side with nine internationals in their starting XV, but the West Country outfit are without prop Beno Obano who is banned after his red card at Wasps last week.

Former England and Saracens fly-half Alex Lozowski is joined by ex-France captain Guilem Guirado, Anthony Bouthier, Arthur Vincent, Mohamed Haouas and Paul Willemse in the Montpellier starting line-up.

South African stars Bismarck du Plessis, Cobus Reinach and Handre Pollard are on a bench that also includes former Saracens prop Titi Lamositele as Montpellier aim to put their poor league form to one side – they are third-from-bottom of the French Top 14 – and add to the Challenge Cup title they won in 2016.

Preparing for ‘pressure moments’

Bath celebrate 2008 Challenge Cup victory
Bath’s only European victory came when they beat Worcester 24-16 in the 2008 Challenge Cup final

Bath last reached the final of the competition in 2014 when they were beaten 30-16 by Northampton.

The club has reached four Challenge Cup finals, with their only victory coming against Worcester in 2008.

“What we want to be doing is putting ourselves in a position to win trophies,” Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper told BBC Radio Bristol.

“For the players, they have a motivation to do something together, to experience that winning together and getting their hands on some silverware.

“Experience is key. We played in a semi-final last year, and OK it was the Premiership and we didn’t get the result we wanted, but it’s key that this group’s been to that level, they’ve been to a knockout game and they’ve experienced it so we’ll be better for it when we get out on the field on Saturday night.

“Everything we do in training is geared towards coping with, and excelling in, those pressure moments.”

The winners will play whoever wins Friday’s first semi-final between Leicester and Ulster.

There is now the added incentive of a Twickenham final in front of a 10,000 crowd on Friday, 21 May following the decision to move both the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals from Marseille because of the impact of Covid-19.

Bath: Watson; Cokanasiga, Joseph, Redpath, Muir; Bailey, Spencer; Schoeman, Dunn, Stuart, McNally, Ewels (capt), Faletau, Underhill, Mercer

Replacements: Walker, Bhatti, Thomas, Stooke, Bayliss, Reid, Chudley, Clark

Montpellier: Bouthier; Tisseron, Goosen, Vincent, Rattez; Lozowski, Paillaugue; Forletta, Guirado (capt), Haouas, Verhaeghe, Willemse, Janse van Rensburg, Camara, Becognee

Replacements: Du Plessis, Fichten, Lamositele, Duguid, Ouedraogo, Reinach, Pollard, Martin

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland).

Touch judges: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Chris Busby (Ireland).

TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland).

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