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It is always a special occasion when Bath Rugby play Bristol Bears under the floodlights at Ashton Gate in a West Country derby, even more so when it is the opening fixture of a new Premiership season.
On this occasion, however, there will be some notable differences. The Premiership’s opening weekend will take place later than usual, commencing on 18 October, and with the Rugby World Cup simultaneously reaching its latter stages, there will be a number of key personnel missing.
The blue, black and white of Bath will be forced to line up on that Friday night without England stars Anthony Watson, Joe Cokanisiga, Jonathan Joseph, Sam Underhill and now Ruaridh McConnochie – brought in last season due to the absence of some of the aforementioned.
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They will also be without Francois Louw of South Africa and perennially injured Wales No8 Taulupe Faletau – because he is sidelined, although were he not he would be representing his country.
Premiership clubs have already begun their pre-season training and the Somerset outfit are one of the clubs hit hardest by the World Cup, although like all teams they will be accustomed to at times dealing without their international stars.
In the absence of top-flight games, the Premiership Rugby Cup,
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