Preview: Exeter Chiefs v Leicester Tigers

Date published: November 6 2015

Rob Baxter believes tomorrow's visit of Leicester Tigers will provide the 'acid test' for his Exeter Chiefs side so far this season.

Baxter is well aware of the challenge this lies in store for his players, but they too have been in impressive form, bouncing back from their opening weekend loss at Bath by downing London Irish and Newcastle Falcons in successive weeks.

In both those games the Chiefs ran in for six tries in each game, conceding just once – against Irish – to propel them to third in the standings, just two points behind the Tigers.

"Leicester will be an acid test of where we are at the moment. We think we are doing pretty well and are in good nick as a side and that is great," said Baxter.

"Yes, we're played with our start to the season, but what you have to remember is we have beaten the two sides who are propping up the table currently."

Certainly Exeter's cause will be buoyed by the return of England international Jack Nowell to their back division. The Cornishman was forced to sit out last week's game against the Falcons, but he returns in a starting XV that shows two changes.

He takes over on the right wing from Matt Jess, who drops to the bench, whilst the other change sees Ian Whitten come into the centre alongside Henry Slade with Sam Hill also reverting down to the replacements.

Up front, Exeter's pack of forwards remain unchanged and include a powerful back-row trio of Dave Ewers, Salvi and Don Armand, who picked up the man of the match award at Newcastle a week ago.

Meanwhile, Ben Youngs returns to the Leicester Tigers line-up. Scrum-half Youngs will play for the club for the first time since the Rugby World Cup after recovering from an ankle injury.

He lines up in a team captained by older brother Tom, who leads Tigers in league action for the first time.

Jordan Crane makes his first starting appearance of the season in the back row, while Dom Barrow starts at lock after making his Tigers debut as a replacement in the win over Wasps last Sunday.

Telusa Veainu, a try-scorer on his debut last Sunday, is at full-back with Mathew Tait among the replacements.

Opeti Fonua has been ruled out for 6-8 weeks after suffering an arm fracture in the match against Wasps, but Laurence Pearce returns to the matchday squad this week.

Form: Exeter Chiefs have won their last two Premiership Rugby matches tallying six tries in each and conceding just one in total. The Chiefs have been beaten just once at Sandy Park in the tournament since Round Two last season: 26-25 by Gloucester on 3 January. Leicester Tigers have made their best start to an Premiership season since they also won their opening three fixtures in 2008/09. The Tigers have lost just one regular season away game in the tournament since January: 6-22 at Saracens in April. Leicester have won their last six Premiership Rugby fixtures against Exeter with The Chiefs only two victories over Tigers in the tournament both being in season 2011/12.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Don Armand, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Moray Low, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Sam Hill, 23 Matt Jess

Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu , 14 Adam Thompstone , 13 Matt Smith, 12 Seremaia Bai , 11 Vereniki Goneva , 10 Owen Williams , 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Lachlan McCaffrey, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 1 Fraser Balmain  

Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Riccardo Brugnara, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Mike Fitzgerald, 20 Laurence Pearce, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Peter Betham, 23 Mathew Tait

Date: Saturday, November 7
Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Ross Campbell
TMO: Geoff Warren