Preview: Exeter Chiefs v Clermont

Date published: October 14 2016

Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter has made several changes to his starting XV for their European Champions Cup opener against Clermont at Sandy Park on Sunday.

In the pack, Moray Low and Harry Williams come into the front-row in place of Ben Moon and Greg Holmes; Damian Welch gets the nod over Mitch Lees in the second row, while Kai Horstmann is preferred to Dave Dennis on the blindside flank.

Behind, there are two changes with Dave Lewis starting at scrum-half and Ollie Devoto coming into the midfield alongside Sam Hill. 

Devoto’s inclusion means Henry Slade drops down to the bench where he will be joined – for the first time – by young scrum-half Jack Maunder (pictured), the son of former Exeter legend Andy Maunder. 

Baxter is resishing the prospect of facing Clermont who are sitting at the top of the Top 14 table.

“A win in your first game is pretty important isn’t it?" he said.

"There are only six rounds of games and, as we saw last season, not getting a point at the Ospreys put us on the back foot immediately.

"Two teams picked up a win that weekend in our pool and, in theory, from then on they can stay in front of you. That makes it tough. 

"You have to fly into your first couple of fixtures and that gives you a chance to be a leader, but if you lose, you are a chaser. We will focus on being a leader after these two rounds.

"That will be a huge challenge,  but why not set ourselves a huge challenge? That is what the Champions Cup is all about."

Meanwhile, Clermont have made four changes to their run-on side after last weekend's win over Toulouse in the Top 14.

Clermont boss Franck Azéma has retained retained the same back-line which did duty against Toulouse with all his changes made in his pack.

In the back row, Julien Bardy replaces Judicael Cancoriet at openside flank while Flip van der Merwe takes over from Arthur Iturria at lock. 

The final changes are in the frontv row where Benjamin Kayser, and Thomas Domingo come in for Nathan Charles and Etienne Falgoux at hooker and loosehead prop respectively.

Form: In a twist of fate, these two teams find themselves in the same pool – along with Bordeaux-Bègles – again. The Chiefs claimed a 31-14 victory when these teams met in the corresponding fixture at Sandy Park last season. That was Exeter’s solitary win in four previous meetings between the two club and Clermont gained revenge with a 42-10 hammering in the rematch at Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin. 

The teams:

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

Clermont: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 David Strettle, 13 Remi Lamerat, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Damien Chouly, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Flip Van Der Merwe, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Etienne Falgoux, 18 Clément Ric, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic , 22 Pato Fernandez, 23 Aurélien Rougerie

Date: Sunday, October 16
Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 18:30 BST (17:30 GMT)
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)