Two former Edinburgh coaches will go head to head in a renewal of the rivalry between Bath and Bristol in tonight’s European Challenge Cup west country derby.
Todd Blackadder will lead Bath, with Andy Robinson his opposite director of rugby as the clubs, who first played each other 128 years ago, meet for the first time since 2009 due to Bristol’s relegation from English rugby’s top flight.
But with Bristol now back in the Aviva Premiership, this evening’s Recreation Ground clash is the first of four meetings this season – two on a domestic stage and two in Europe.
“The whole team is really excited about renewing the rivalry with Bristol,” Bath rugby director Blackadder said.
“It’s going to be a cracking atmosphere at The Rec and we can’t wait to get out there.” Blackadder has called up the likes of wing Jeff Williams, hooker Michael van Vuuren and back-row forward Zach Mercer following last Saturday’s 25-22 Pool Four victory in Pau.
Despite a short turnaround between fixtures, though, Bath have retained several of the side on duty in south-west France, including centres Jonathan Joseph and Matt Banahan, plus stand-off Rhys Priestland, who this week missed out on a place in Wales’ autumn Test squad.
Bristol, beaten 33-20 at home by Cardiff Blues in their European opener last Friday, hand 20-year-old Billy Searle his first start at stand-off as Robinson returns to his former club with a team showing 11 changes following that reversal.