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Exeter Chiefs vs Bath: Three key head-to-heads

Exeter Chiefs welcome West Country rivals Bath to Sandy Park this weekend, as both teams look to bounce back after defeats.

The Chiefs were torn apart by a rampant Sale Sharks side last time out, but the welcome return to Europe and to Sandy Park could be just the thing to get them over the blues.

Rob Baxter is spoiled for choice once again this week, but with the return of Rusi Tuima, Ethan Roots and Ollie Devoto they have a much stronger looking team than last week.

The focus will likely be on the Chiefs response, however Bath suffered a defeat of their own last week, and Johann van Graan will be hoping his team respond with a win in Devon. A lacklustre start against Harlequins saw them fall 40-3 behind at one point, but despite a spirited comeback they couldn’t claw their way back.

Van Graan had previously said he would name as strong a team as he could, and he has lived up to that promise as Ollie Lawrence, Finn Russell, Joe Cokanasiga and Alfie Barbeary are all named.

Both teams have brought out the big guns for this knockout tie, but which head-to-heads should we watch out for? Here are three key match-ups that could define the outcome this weekend.

Exeter Chiefs vs Bath: Three key head-to-heads

Ross Vintcent vs Alfie Barbeary

The battle at number eight will be a fascinating watch this weekend. Ross Vintcent has seen his stock rise this season, and he quickly emerged as one of the breakaway stars for Italy during the Six Nations. He possesses genuine speed, and a keen eye for space too; so he will defiantly cause Bath some problems this weekend.

He won’t have it all his own way though, as opposite number Barbeary will be keen to prove why he is one of the biggest prospects in English rugby. The former Wasp had a coming-of-age display in this competition against Racing 92 (despite his red card), but he is only going on an upwards curve from there. He is an incredibly powerful ball carrier, and operates well in both the loose and the tight.

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso vs Joe Cokanasiga

England shirts could be on the line for these two. Feyi-Waboso’s meteoric rise this season has seen him leapfrog his opposite number into the England team, but who will come out on top this weekend?

Last weekend was a pretty dark day for Exeter, however, Feyi-Waboso again showed why he is the man of the moment. He has raw strength and power that make him a handful for any defender, but he balances that well with devastating speed.

He will need to be on his A-game to get the edge over his Bath counterpart. Cokanasiga’s form for Bath is always top draw, and he is a vital cog in their backline. He has the strength of a back-rower, but can also burn people with his pace.

Henry Slade vs Ollie Lawrence

They might be partners in the England midfield, but Slade and Lawrence will be facing off against each other this weekend.

Slade is Exeter’s talisman, and this season more than ever has stepped up to lead the team. He is one of the most skilful players in English rugby, and his connection with Feyi-Waboso has really helped take Exeter’s attack up a gear.

Lawrence won’t be a pushover though. The former Worcester man has quickly become one of Bath’s most important players, with his destructive ball carrying now their primary weapon in attack. He is so powerful charging through the 13 channel, which then helps Bath get quick ball on the back of it, and allows their attack to really flourish.