Bath vs Clermont Auvergne: Key players for Champions Cup Pool 3 contest
Last Updated: 05/12/19 9:02pm
Two teams in desperate need of victory collide at the Rec on Friday night as Bath and Clermont attempt to keep their Champions Cup hopes alive.
Bath are on a three-game losing streak and have failed to score a try in their last two outings. They sit bottom of Pool 3 but the losing bonus points gained against Ulster and Harlequins means they still have a slim chance of reaching the knockout stages.
Champions Cup Pool 3
Clermont have looked unstoppable at Stade Marcel Michelin over the past two months but they have shown a soft centre on the road. Their last three away fixtures have ended in defeat, including an 18-13 reverse against Ulster in round two.
Friday's game is Bath's 100th in the Champions Cup, and their first against Clermont. Here are four match-ups which could decide the outcome…
Tom Homer vs Nick Abendanon
Bath old boy Abendanon makes an emotional return to the Rec, having departed for Clermont in 2014 after making over 200 appearances for the West Country club.
The full-back is expecting "rotten weather" - he can also expect an aerial bombardment as Bath look to play the conditions.
However, those kicks must be precise as the 33-year-old will punish any loose punts downfield.
Homer returned to the Bath line-up against Saracens and led the way with five defenders beaten. They need more of that creative spark against star-studded opposition.
Rhys Priestland vs Camille Lopez
Priestland kicked all of Bath's points in last weekend's Premiership loss to Saracens and his accuracy from the boot will again be crucial.
The Wales fly-half has attempted to ignite Bath's lacklustre attack, making two line breaks against Saracens and beating three defenders.
However, given the state of the Rec pitch against Sarries, territory is likely to be his primary focus so the Bath pack can try to pressurise their opponents at the set-piece.
Lopez has developed an impressive half-back partnership with Morgan Parra and when in the mood he is capable of unlocking the best of defences, from pinpoint cross-field kicks to offloading in contact.
He also has a penchant for a drop goal but in keeping with the stereotype of French fly-halves, Lopez can go missing in matches. Bath will hope Friday is one of his off nights.
Francois Louw vs Fritz Lee
There will be an enthralling breakdown battle between these two heavyweight No 8s.
Lee has made a tournament-leading five turnovers in Clermont's opening two games, while World Cup winner Louw is also a master poacher. His presence in the Bath back row will help alleviate the absence of Sam Underhill.
If Bath can frustrate Lee and his Clermont team-mates by slowing down their ruck ball, it could be the catalyst to a famous victory.
Jonathan Joseph vs Isaiah Toeava
Joseph returns to the Bath midfield and his international partnership with Jamie Roberts will be put to the test by Clermont's centre duo.
As well as being a potent attacking threat, Joseph also brings added defensive solidity, which is timely after Bath conceded 13 penalties and missed 14 tackles against Saracens.
Opposite Joseph is the versatile and experienced Toeava, who won the last of his 36 New Zealand caps at the 2011 World Cup and starts alongside fellow All Black George Moala.
The pair ran riot in the opening-round win over Harlequins but Joseph and company will have taken note of how Ulster subdued them in round two.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook; 1 Beno Obano, 2 Tom Dunn, 3 Will Stuart, 4 Josh McNally, 5 Elliott Stooke, 6 Mike Williams, 7 Josh Bayliss, 8 Francois Louw (c).
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Matt Garvey, 20 Rhys Davies, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Aled Brew.
Clermont Auvergne: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Samuel Ezeala, 13 Isaiah Toeava, 12 George Moala, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra (c); 1 Loni Uhila, 2 Yohan Beheregaray, 3 Rabah Slimani, 4 Arthur Iturria, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 6 Alexandre Fischer, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 8 Fritz Lee.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Giorgi Beria, 18 Davit Zirakashvili, 19 Julien Ruaud, 20 Faifili Levave, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Peter Betham, 23 Apisai Naqalevu.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland).