Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport’s live coverage of today’s second Gallagher Premiership semi-final between Exeter and Bath at Sandy Park, where the winner will face Wasps at Twickenham in the final on Saturday October 24.
After a thrilling, comprehensive Wasps victory at the Ricoh Arena earlier in the day, this one is expected to be slightly closer. Rob Baxter’s Exeter Chiefs have undoubtedly been the form team since the Premiership’s August restart, but form matters for little in knockout rugby. Bath, who are nigh-on full-strength, are one team who could definitely shock the Chiefs at a crowd-less Sandy Park.
Befitting a Premiership semi-final, there are juicy match-ups to be found all over the field but, as ever, the back-row battle will be most fascincating. Dave Ewers, Jacques Vermeulen and Sam Simmonds against the visitors’ trio of Tom Ellis, Sam Underhill and Taulupe Faletau. Toothsome.
Bath might fancy their chances more than usual, considering Exeter did not learn of their semi-final opponents until Wednesday morning, following the cancellation of Sale’s match against Worcester. Henry Slade, the Chiefs’ England centre, admitted that preparation this week has been “different”.
“We could have played any one of three teams really, so we had to make it all about us this week,” he said. “We found out it would be Bath [on Weds morning] so we had some time to get some stuff in order for that, but on the whole it’s been a good week, focusing on ourselves and what we can bring; it’s been exciting.”
“[On Wednesday] we were able to look at Bath and adapt a few bits. They have been in really good form since the restart and it’s going to be a really good game at the weekend. They have some really dangerous players right across the team – especially in the backs, where I know a few of those guys from international duty.
“They have threats all over so we’re going to have to be right on it, but I’m just excited to see what happens now because it’s been a long time waiting for these play-offs with the lockdown in the middle.”