Preview: Bordeaux-Bègles v Exeter Chiefs

Date published: December 16 2016

Bordeaux-Bègles have made a few changes in the backline and on in the forward pack to play Exeter Chiefs at home this weekend.

They have made a few changes in the backline with Geoffrey Cros and Jean-Baptiste Dubié joining the back three with the former playing at full-back and the latter playing in the eleven jersey. Joe Wakacegu takes up the 12 jersey and replaces Julien Rey who drops out of the squad completely.

The French side have a complete swap out at half back with the combination of Ian Madigan and Baptiste Serin replaced by Lionel Beauxis and Julien Audy.

In the forward pack Bordeaux have made just one change with Sébastien Taofifenua starting at loose-head prop ahead of Steven Kitshoff.

Meanwhile, the European aspirations of Exeter Chiefs may be hanging by a thread after three successive losses in this season’s Champions Cup, but head coach Rob Baxter says it is imperative his side don’t allow themselves to flounder during the remainder of the competition.

Just a week after coming unstuck 13-7 at home to French rivals Bordeaux Begles, the two sides meet again tomorrow at the Stade Chaban Delmas in a game which Baxter insists has plenty on it.

Frustrated by his side’s inability to turn possession and territory into greater reward last time out, the Chiefs will be looking to do their own ‘smash and grab’ raid on their Top 14 hosts, who having collected two wins from three and will be hoping to enhance their own qualification hopes with another success this weekend.

Among those returning to the ranks this weekend are fit-again duo Luke Cowan-Dickie and Phil Dollman, whilst there are also recalls for the likes of Mitch Lees, Kai Horstmann, Thomas Waldrom, Ian Whitten and Olly Woodburn having missed out last week.

The experienced Horstmann will take over captaincy duties as both Jack Yeandle and Gareth Steenson have not made the trip across the Channel.

Despite the re-jig in personnel, Baxter is confident this weekend’s troops can deliver in the heat of battle, building on the positives of not only last week’s performance, albeit in defeat, but also the success of Exeter’s previous three wins in the Premiership.

“If you look at the Ulster versus Clermont game from last weekend, it kind of wraps up two things for us,” said Baxter.

“The first being it showed just how well we played over in Ulster when we came within inches and seconds of winning the game that night. The second shows just how much we let ourselves down against Clermont at home in that first game and how Ulster dealt with them, whereas we clearly did not.

“At the same time, anyone who watched out game last week will know we were massively frustrated with not converting some of the opportunities that we created. I think some of our stats for territory, possession, entry into their 22, entry into their five metre zone, thy were some of the best we have ever created, yet we have hardly scored any points.

“Yes, we were disappointed with that end conversion rate and we’ve talked about it a lot this week, but there were also huge parts of the game that we were more than satisfied with. I guess if you were to wrap up our three games, it feels like we have been right on the edge, but we’ve not quite gone over it.

“Had we done a little bit more in each of those games we could easily be sitting here now, feeling pretty pleased with ourselves and knowing we’re going to Bordeaux this weekend with plenty to play for. The performance against Clermont we know wasn’t good enough by any stretch of the imagination, but the other two games have been good and we have to make sure we keep driving that into the players.

“As I’ve said to the guys this week, we need to go over to Bordeaux and play well, show why we are in the Champions Cup, and do everything we can to win the game. We’re certainly strong enough to do that and we’ve got a squad of players capable of doing that, so I’m expecting all of them to show the qualities I expect of them.”

Form: The Chiefs will travel to France for their Pool 5 match-up on the back of a 13-7 loss to the Top 14 side. Rob Baxter’s men were cruelly denied a semi-final spot last season, but they face a near impossible task to qualify this time around after defeats to Bordeaux, Ulster and Clermont. At the midway point of the pool stages, Exeter lie at the bottom of the group, having picked up two losing bonus-points. But, at the top, things are shaping up to be very tight as Clermont lead on 12 points, with Top 14 rivals Bordeaux second on nine. UBB beat Ulster in their tournament opener but lost their next match to Clermont before bouncing back against the Chiefs last weekend. The Chiefs face an uphill battle as they travel to the daunting 34,000 capacity Stade Chaban-Delmas where Bordeaux have not lost since September 4 against Montpellier.

The teams:

Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Geoffrey Cros, 14 Nans Ducuing, 13 Romain Lonca, 12 Joe Wakacegu, 11 Jean-Baptiste Dubié, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Joe Edwards, 6 Loann Goujon, 5 Berend Botha, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Marc Clerc, 2 Ole Avei, 1 Sébastien Taofifenua
Replacements: 16 Benat Auzqui, 17 Jean-Baptiste Poux, 18 Xerom Civil, 19 Cyril Cazeaux, 20 Louis Madaule, 21 Gauthier Doubrere, 22 Baptiste Serin, 23 Jean-Marcellin Buttin

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Kai Horstmann (c), 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Ollie Atkins, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Carl Rimmer
Replacement: 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Moray Low, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dave Dennis, 20 Don Armand, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Michele Campagnaro

Date: Saturday, December 17
Venue: Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Richard Kerr (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)