With just one point separating the top three sides in Pool 5 of the Champions Cup, tonight’s Bath v Scarlets clash at the Rec will have a huge say on who progresses to the knockout stages of the competition.
Bath are on top of Pool 5, level on 13 points with Toulon but the English side pip their French rivals on points difference. Scarlets are just one point behind on 12 in third place. With Toulon hosting Benetton on Sunday, in what could easily be a bonus point victory for the French side, Bath and Scarlets will be desperate to secure a victory tonight.
Here we take a look at some of the key head-to-heads for tonight’s clash:
Beno Obano v Samson Lee
Joe Marler’s suspension and other injury problems in the loosehead positions for England means that we may likely see Beno Obano get his first taste of international rugby in the upcoming Six Nations. A cousin of Maro Itoje, Obano has been very good for Bath this season and his mammoth 18st 13lbs frame means that he is devastating in the tight and in the loose.
He comes up against the experienced Samson Lee who made his long-awaited comeback from injury last week against the Dragons in the PRO14. Lee is an astute scrummager who will be using all of his experience to get the better of Obano, who himself only signed his first senior contract with Bath this season.
Whoever gets on top of this battle, especially in the scrum, will go a long way to helping their side to victory.
Sam Underhill v Aaron Shingler
Another player returning from injury, Sam Underhill will make his first appearance tonight since going off with concussion in England’s victory over Australia back in November. Underhill is a fantastic openside with his work rate and energy around the pitch a huge asset to both club and country though it remains to be seen how effective he will be after coming back from such a lengthy injury layoff.
Aaron Shingler at blindside also boasts an incredible level of work rate which has recently seen him put in a fantastic performance against the Dragons last week where he scored a try, made 44 metres off nine carries and secured a 100% tackle completion record.
These two will be seeing plenty of each other – both players will be tasked with providing quick ball for their attack while slowing down the opposition at ruck time – a crucial battle awaits.
Anthony Watson v Rhys Patchell
Anthony Watson needs no reminding to the devasting attacking play he can produce when given open field to run into. That’s why Rhys Patchell’s selection at full-back is particularly interesting. Patchell put in a man-of-the-match performance last week from the back-three despite usually playing at out-half.
Patchell will add another element of tactical kicking for the Scarlets and Wayne Pivac seems to have put faith in the Welshman to provide another layer of territorial kicking but most importantly, kicking which doesn’t allow his opposite number Watson to flourish in open space.
Both players could cause some serious damage to their opponents as a result of loose kicking so the battle between the pair will be particularly interesting.
Bath v Scarlets kicks off at 19:45.