Gallagher Premiership semi-final previews: Wasps, Bristol Bears, Exeter Chiefs and Bath lock horns for a place in the Twickenham final
You can watch both games from the semi-finals of the Gallagher Premiership live on BT Sport as Exeter Chiefs, Bath, Wasps and Bristol Bears battle it out for a place in the final.
The Gallagher Premiership finalists will be decided on an unmissable Super Saturday on BT Sport as Exeter Chiefs, Bath, Wasps and Bristol Bears battle it out for a place at Twickenham.
12 long months after the 2019/20 season began, the finish line is in sight in the race to be crowned kings of English rugby.
The Chiefs and Wasps both have the privilege of playing their semi-finals at home after finishing one and two in the table respectively.
Bath will travel to Sandy Park to face Champions Cup finalists Exeter while Bristol will head north up the M5 to meet Wasps at the Ricoh Arena.
Saturday 10 October, 1pm
Live Stream – BTSport.com & BT Sport app
TV - BT Sport 1 HD & BT Sport Ultimate
Number two seeds Wasps will kick off what will be a compelling day of rugby at 1pm on BT Sport 1 HD and BT Sport Ultimate when they face Bristol.
Wasps, who have won the Premiership title on six previous occasions, are bidding for a first final appearance since 2017, when they lost to Exeter 23-20 after extra time.
The turnaround in Wasps' form under Lee Blackett since the restart has been nothing short of extraordinary.
The Coventry outfit have been the team to watch since the Premiership resumed with young stars like Alfie Barbeary, Jacob Umaga and most notably Jack Willis helping to catapult them up the ladder.
Wasps have gone from mid-table also-rans to genuine Premiership title contenders since rugby returned to BT Sport screens and Willis has been a major part of that success.
He leads the league in turnovers with 43, more than double the number managed by his nearest rival, Blair Cowan of London Irish.
“Jack has been a key reason why Wasps have been flying since the restart. We can talk about Wasps’ attacking game, which has been excellent, while they also have new management and they all look to be enjoying their rugby," said BT Sport's Ugo Monye.
“But defensively they have been very good and one of the key features in their game, what’s making them a well-rounded side is their work at the breakdown – that’s been spearheaded by Jack Willis.
“He’s such an impactful player, he has so many big moments in games that either wrestle back momentum, create momentum or encourage teammates to become better players.
"He's just been simply outstanding - in every part of his game. Whether it be carrying, lineout, defensively, but more so than anything at the breakdown. Everyone is aware of these new law interpretations and he’s adapted to them really well. It’s been a key feature of his game."
Willis will be a constant threat at the breakdown come Saturday and it's an area Bristol know they will have to get right if they are to reach a first ever Premiership final.
A bright start for the Bears gave way to some mid-season malaise, but with an injection of new blood from loanees Ben Earl and Max Malins, Bristol have fought their way back into title contention.
Callum Sheedy's stellar performances at fly-half have been rewarded with a call-up to Wayne Pivac's latest Wales squad.
With a Challenge Cup final against French giants Toulon to come six days after Saturday's Premiership semi, the 23-year-old is hoping to begin his international career on a high with success at club level.
"Hopefully we have three games to go and I can go into the Welsh camp with two winners' medals," said Sheedy.
"The way Bristol are growing and the way we are performing and getting results has given us big-match experience.
"To be involved in a European final and Premiership semi-finals and hopefully a final - being involved in big moments can only benefit us to move forward."
Sheedy's teammate Ioan Lloyd was also named in Pivac's Autumn Nations Cup. The 19-year-old full-back has been tearing up trees at Ashton Gate this season and is widely considered one of the hottest prospects in the Premiership.
Wasps have the edge in the head-to-head having won the last two meetings by a combined total of 29 points although Blackett will be leaving nothing to chance against a Bears outfit stacked with individual match winners.
Aside from the promising Welsh duo of Sheedy and Lloyd, head coach Pat Lam has a blockbuster cast of talent to pick from including Fijian flier Semi Radrada, a player capable of tearing any defence to shreds on his day.
Will Wasps march on to a first Premiership final apperance since 2017 or will Lam's up-and-coming Bears steal the show at the Ricoh?
Saturday 10 October, 3.45pm
Live Stream – BTSport.com & BT Sport app
TV - BT Sport 1 HD & BT Sport Ultimate
It's a match of old versus new in the day's second semi-final as Premiership bully boys Exeter Chiefs face-off against one of English rugby's most decorated clubs, Bath.
Premiership pacesetters Exeter welcome Bath to Sandy Park with the prospect of a league and European Cup double very much in their sights.
Having finished the regular season three points clear of Wasps at the top of the table the Chiefs are bidding to reach the Twickenham showpiece for a fifth successive season.
The Devon club have been runners-up in the last two finals but they have a clear run at the trophy this season following the relegation of their perennial nemesis Saracens.
On the 10th anniversary of their promotion to the top flight, Rob Baxter's men are bidding to become only the third English team in history to win the Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup in the same season.
Standing in their way are a Bath side who scraped into the play-offs after Sale Sharks were forced to cancel their round 22 game against Northampton Saints.
A 17-17 draw with reigning champions Saracens in the final round of the regular season had left Bath's play-offs hanging in the balance.
But a mass outbreak of Covid-19 ravaged Steve Diamond's Sale squad, denying them the chance to fulfil their final-day fixture and pip Bath to fourth place.
Confirmation of Bath's place in the last four may have come at the eleventh hour but the West Country outfit are primed and ready to upset the odds at Sandy Park. Only Wasps posted a better record than Bath's seven wins, one draw and one loss since the lockdown.
"We’ve been working very hard," said director of rugby Stuart Hooper.
"The players and staff during lockdown did so much work, with garages converted into gyms, people training at four in the morning so they could drop their kids at nursery. I believe that is part of why we have had such a good run post-lockdown."
At scrum-half, Ben Spencer has had a transformative impact since arriving from Saracens during the mid-season break.
The 2019 Champions Cup winner has scored five tries for Bath in seven starts while his kicking game has provided much-needed control in close contests.
The Chiefs will rightly be overwhelming favourites to progress but they will not be underestimating their opponents.
Bath boast one of the most electric backlines in the competition with Jonathan Joseph, Ruaridh McConnochie, Anthony Watson and Joe Cokanasiga all fit and firing ahead of the short trip south.
The West Country outfit have previously reached two finals, losing to Wasps in 2004 and Saracens in 2015.
"It's going to be a fantastic semi-final," Baxter told the club's website.
"You've got to hope that our semi-final experience will help the players.
"What might be slighlty different this year is that weather conditions compared to previously years are going to be noticeably different.
"Bath are the form side coming out of lockdown and they look like they're enjoying their rugby, that makes any team a challenge.
"We've got to go into the game with an understanding that we have to be at our best."
Don't write off the prospect of a huge upset when these two pack down on Saturday afternoon.
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