Preview: Bristol v Exeter Chiefs

Date published: September 23 2016

Kyle Traynor is set to make his first Premiership start when Bristol face Exeter on Friday evening. 

The Scotland international is one of six changes, all in the pack, for the South-West derby at Ashton Gate.
Andy Robinson names an unchanged backline as Bristol look to end a run of three successive defeats in the Premiership.

In the forwards, Gaston Cortes returns to the front-row, while James Phillips and Mark Sorenson form a new-look second row partnership.

Jon Fisher recovers from a toe injury to start in the back row and Jordan Crane also returns.

“It’s great to have Friday night rugby back at Ashton Gate and we’re buoyed by the knowledge that there will be a bumper crowd to support the team,” Robinson said.

“The key messages to the squad this week has been to stick together, keep fighting and keep working hard. We know where we need to improve and we’re looking to embrace the challenge that Exeter Chiefs will bring under the floodlights.”

Max Crumpton, Jamal Ford-Robinson and Charlie Amesbury are all named among the replacements and could make their first competitive outings of the campaign if they feature.

Meanwhile Rob Baxter has warned his Exeter Chiefs side to prepare for battle ahead of tomorrow night’s Westcountry derby with Bristol in Round Four of this season’s Premiership.

Baxter is keen for his team to build on their success with an equally strong performance tomorrow having defeated Harlequins 36-25 last weekend.

“Friday will be a big game because it’s against our nearest Premiership rivals,” he continued. “The thing I keep pushing with the lads is that it’s a big Premiership game of rugby and because it’s a Premiership game it’s a big game. Anytime you win in this league you have done well, whether it’s home or away, and that’s the important thing to drive home.

“Week by week we have to go onto the field and play in a way that merits something out of the game for us. As I’ve said to the players, they have to be prepared to go to Bristol and work extremely hard. If the mindset for them is they are disappointed if they don’t score tries, they are already getting it wrong.

“What they should be disappointed about is if they turn up and don’t work very hard, that’s what I am expecting of them. I’m not overly bothered about the style of play or points on the board, I want to see players who want to turn up and play a big, tough game of rugby.”

Although victorious last time out, Baxter has tweaked his winning formula by bringing in Alec Hepburn, Mitch Lees and Dave Dennis to his pack of forwards in place of Ben Moon, Geoff Parling and the injured Don Armand, while behind Sam Hill is promoted from the bench at the expense of Ollie Devoto.

On the bench, Kai Horstmann fills the void left by Dennis, who is making his first start for the club following his summer move from the Waratahs, while Harry Williams is back-up at tight-head following Tomas Francis’ two-week suspension.

Form: Bristol Rugby have slipped to three straight defeats on their return to Premiership Rugby, although they did attain a losing bonus point in round one and have twice finished with a try tally of three. Bristol have not been victorious at Ashton Gate since last season’s RFU Championship semi-final second leg against Bedford. Exeter Chiefs opened their winning account in Premriship Rugby for 2016/17 with a home victory over Harlequins on Saturday. The Chiefs only away win from their last five trips in Premiership Rugby was 62-24 at Harlequins in round 22. The two sides have never clashed before in Premiership Rugby, and last locked horns in the final of the RFU Championship in season 2009/10 with Exeter taking both legs to earn promotion. This is the Devonians first visit to Ashton Gate.

The teams:

Bristol: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Thretton Palamo, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Jack Lam (c), 6 Jon Fisher, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 James Phillips, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Kyle Traynor
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Soane Tonga’uiha, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Joe Joyce, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Charlie Amesbury

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Sam Hill, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Gareth Steenson(c), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Ollie Devoto, 23 James Short

Date: Friday, September 23
Venue: Ashton Gate
Kick-off: 19:45 local (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Greg MacDonald & Paul Dix
TMO: Sean Davey