Preview: Exeter Chiefs v Worcester Warriors

Date published: November 25 2016

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Exeter coach Rob Baxter has challenged his side to build on last week’s win at Newcastle with an equally strong display against Worcester.

The Chiefs returned to winning ways in the top flight with a powerful display up in the North East, not only collecting their first league win since September, but also accruing all five points thanks to Will Chudley’s late try against his former club.

This weekend the Devonians will be looking to continue their upturn in form against the Warriors, who have won just once in the league this season and lie just a place above basement club Bristol.

Unlike the Chiefs, Carl Hogg’s side were narrowly undone on their last outing against Northampton Saints, where the boot of Stephen Myler proved the telling difference on the night, this despite the home side outscoring the Saints 2-0 on the try chart.

With an unchanged starting line-up, Baxter is backing those who prospered at Kingston Park to not only pick up from where they left off a week ago, but at the same time look to further enhance their claims to be amongst the division’s frontrunners.

“We’ve looked at last week and now we’re not looking too much further than Worcester this weekend,” said Baxter. “Right now we are a Premiership team that I feel are up and running. If you look at the combined results of every team over the last five or six rounds, we’re right up there as one of the form teams and that’s despite a late loss here against Bath.

“Looking at things, we’re going OK and we’re starting to get to the levels we need to be. At the same time, we’re still accelerating and we’re far from peaking, which is important. Each week the players are getting better the more they play together, plus we’re starting to get a number of players returning from injury as well, so we’re expecting and we’re demanding that we get better and we improve.

“I’ve said to the guys, I want us to get more intense, more passionate and more emotional about things game by game. That’s what I want to see and when I look at this group if players, I can see they want to drive our season ahead in a really exciting way.”

Standing in the way this weekend, however, will be a Worcester side minus centre Ben Te’o who is on England duty, skipper GJ Van Velze and also hooker Niall Annett and fly-half Ryan Lamb, both of whom are set for extended spells on the sidelines through injury. That said, Kiwi winger Bryce Heem marked his return to action after six months out with a try last week and will be a man the Chiefs will have to monitor closely.

“Worcester are a very good side and we’re well aware of the threats that can pose,” warned Baxter. “Yes, they’ll be frustrated with a few close results this season, none more so than last week against Northampton, so they’ll come here relatively confident and looking to cause us one or two problems.

“What we have to make sure is that our confidence and our work-rate exceeds them. You could say every game is like that, but we know we will have to come out fully prepared to work our socks off, give everything and show that mental toughness you need to win a tough game of Premiership rugby.”

Aside from an unchanged starting XV, which includes former Worcester favourite Kai Horstmann, Baxter’s only changes in personnel see Dave Ewers return on the bench in place of Ben White, while Sam Hill is also back on duty and replaces Lachie Turner.

Meanwhile, Warriors Academy duo Jack Singleton and Andrew Kitchener will both make their first Premiership starts for the Warriors this weekend . The pair, who have recently impressed in the European Challenge Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup, were handed their Premiership debuts last weekend and Head Coach Carl Hogg has promoted them to starting line-up for this Saturday’s test.

Winger Bryce Heem will make his first start of the season after scoring on his return last weekend against Northampton Saints, while Josh Adams is given the nod on the opposite flank in his first Premiership start of the campaign.

Wynand Olivier and Dean Hammond form the midfield partnership with 19-year-old Jamie Shillcock and Jonny Arr completing the half-back combination.

Flanker Sam Lewis could make his first ever Premiership appearance from the bench after impressing for Worcester Cavaliers on Monday night against Oxford University, while Tom Biggs has also been named in the replacements after his hat-trick against the student side earlier this week.

Jackson Willison also returns to the side on the bench, which also includes Donncha O’Callaghan.

Form: Exeter Chiefs’ 32-19 victory in the long away trek to Newcastle in the Premiership last Friday ended a three game winless run in the tournament. Exeter are one of only three sides in the Premiership who this season have tallied fewer league points at home as they have picked up on their travels. Worcester Warriors’ only victory in their last seven first team encounters was 31-25 at home to Bristol in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 4 November. The Warriors’ only two away victories since returning to the Premiership in 2015 both came in successive fixtures in March 2016, at Newcastle and at Harlequins. Exeter have won all eight previous fixtures against Worcester in the Premiership with the Warriors’ most recent success over the Chiefs being in Division One at the old County Ground in March 2004.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson(c), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Kai Horstmann, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Sam Hill

Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Dean Hammond, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Jamie Shillcock, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Phil Dowson(c), 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Andrew Kitchener, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 18 Mike Daniels, 19 Donncha O’Callaghan, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Tom Biggs, 23 Jackson Willison

Date: Saturday, November 26
Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 16:30 GMT
Referee: Matthew O’Grady
Assistant Referees: Andrew Pearce, Paul Burton
TMO: Geoff Warren

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