Preview: Clermont v Exeter Chiefs

Date published: December 18 2015

Clermont welcome back Wales international centre Jonathan Davies for Saturday's clash with Exeter Chiefs.

Davies partners Hosea Gear in the centres for les Jaunards as Franck Azema makes six changes to his pack.

In come Vincent Debaty, Benjamin Kayser and Daniel Kotze to make a new front-row, while Jamie Cudmore is at lock and Alexandre Lapandry and Fritz Lee come into the back-row.

Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez continue at half-back while the back three of Noa Nakaitaci, David Strettle and Scott Spedding is unchanged.

Meanwhile, Exeter boss Rob Baxter's plans for the game have been somewhat hampered with the news that Sam Hill, Will Chudley and Olly Woodburn have not trained this week, so there are changes to Exeter’s winning formula of a week ago.

Up front, Carl Rimmer comes into the front-row in place of Ben Moon, whilst England international Geoff Parling gets the nod over Mitch Lees in the second-row.

Behind, Dave Lewis makes his first start of the campaign in place of Chudley, while Matt Jess takes over on the right wing from Woodburn.

Form: Exeter Chiefs won their first match against ASM Clermont Auvergne when they clashed in the last round, a 31-14 victory snapping a streak of two wins for the French side. This was the first time since 2011 that Clermont had lost a third or fourth round fixture in the Champions Cup. Exeter have strung together wins against Bordeaux-Bègles and ASM Clermont Auvergne, another win against the French outfit would be the third in a row for Exeter, their best ever run in the Champions Cup. Exeter have averaged more time in possession of the ball so far than any other side (22m 58s), whilst Clermont have averaged the least time in possession (13m 21s). Jack Nowell has made more carries (45) and beaten more defenders (19) than anyone else in the Champions Cup this season so far. Clermont are one of four sides with a 100% scrum success rate this season; however they have the lowest lineout success rate (71%) in the tournament. Gareth Steenson is yet to miss a shot at goal this season, slotting all eight efforts he has had so far. Camille Lopez (4/4) and Morgan Parra (4/4) both have 100% goal kicking success rates as well. Clermont have averaged 11.5 turnovers won per game so far, the best rate of any side. Exeter have lost six of their eight trips to play in France in European competition (Champions Cup and Challenge Cup) however they did win on their last excursion there (La Rochelle, December 2014).

The teams:

Clermont: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 David Strettle, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hosea Gear, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Vito Kolelishvili, 5 Sébastian Vahaamahina, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Thomas Domingo, 18 Clément Ric, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Ludovic Radoslavjevic, 22 Pato Fernandez, 23 Albert Vulivuli.

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Jack Nowell, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Geoff Parling, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Carl Rimmer.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Moray Low, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Michele Campanaro.

Date: Sunday, December 20
Venue: Stade Marcel Michelin
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Stefano Pennè (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)