Anthony Watson knows from bitter experience the importance of seizing the rare opportunity presented by reaching Gallagher Premiership play-offs. Watson will start at full-back when resurgent Bath attempt to defy expectations by toppling competition favourites Exeter at Sandy Park in the second of Saturday’s semi-finals.

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It is the first time for five years that the Recreation Ground club participated in the knockout phase and Watson recalls the unexpectedly long wait that followed the last visit.

I remember that 2015 semi-final we got to and (former Bath centre) Kyle Eastmond said to me in the car,  ‘We’re not going to get a better opportunity to win it for a while’,” Watson said.

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“I remember thinking naively, at 21, ‘What’s he on about? Our team is on fire. We’ve come second in the Premiership and we’re flying. We’ll be back next year and the year after’.

“You see how quickly things change and that makes you appreciate when you get to these positions that you’ve got to make the most of them.

“I’m massively excited to get out there, win on Saturday and have another crack at a final. These must-win games are why we play rugby. One of my biggest regrets is having lost some of these must-win games. I’ve made no secret of how desperate I am to win something here. Now we’ve got the best opportunity we’ve had in five years.”

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Watson and Eastmond were try-scorers when Leicester were swept aside 47-10 in the 2015 semi-final but a week later Bath were routed by Saracens in a one-sided final at Twickenham.

“Everything worked for us in the semi-final against Leicester. That was a great day, but it wasn’t hyped up to be what it’s not,” Watson said.

“We didn’t make it bigger than it was – it’s still 80 minutes of rugby. It’s not anything we aren’t ready for, or not prepared for.”

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