Exeter welcome back Jack Nowell and Phil Dollman into their starting line-up for Sunday’s Aviva Premiership game against Harlequins at Sandy Park.
Both Nowell and Dollman appeared off the bench in last week’s 25-22 win at Gloucester, but head coach Rob Baxter is keen to see the duo in action from the outset as the Chiefs look to record a third triumph in four Premiership starts this season.
England international Nowell has not started a league game since he injured a shoulder during Exeter’s defeat at Leicester last March, while Dollman has also had to sit on the sidelines for a few weeks after he picked up an ankle injury during the club’s pre-season win at Ulster.
The return of both players, however, is a major boost for the Chiefs, who will be looking to build off their victory at Kingsholm last time out.
Certainly Baxter will be hoping his troops can produce a powerful display in battle, but knows the visitors will themselves be dangerous.
“We know they are dangerous,” he said.
“They like to play a high tempo game, but they can also grind things out if necessary. They haven’t had the success they’ve had by being one dimensional. Obviously they’ve got a number of key players who can break the game open for them, so we’ll need to keep an eye on them.
“It’s like any game of rugby, they’ll have multiple threats and they will look to add something new to their game this weekend. That is what they are good at and they’ve chucked something unexpected at us and caught us a couple of times like that. All week we have talked about being alert and aware for 80 minutes. That’s always the challenge, but it always get tougher against the better teams.”
Other changes see Will Chudley promoted to the number nine jersey in place of Haydn Thomas (concussion). Chudley’s elevation means there is a place on the bench for Aussie Pat Phibbs and he will be joined by the likes of Don Armand, Ian Whitten and Tom James.
Meanwhile, Quins have named an unchanged starting line-up for this tough away fixture.
However, the changes to the squad that beat Wasps last week are among the replacements as Joe Gray, Sam Twomey and Joe Trayfoot are named by director of rugby, Conor O’Shea.
Form: Exeter Chiefs only loss in their last four Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters came at home to Leicester in round 2, whilst their last eight matches have all been won by the away side on the day. The Chiefs’ only Premiership Rugby victory at Sandy Park in 2014 was when London Irish were the visitors in March. Harlequins last three defeats in Aviva Premiership Rugby have all been inflicted by Saracens, whilst ‘Quins have won three of their last four away games in the competition. Harlequins achieved the Premiership Rugby double over the Chiefs last season and have a won two, lost two record on previous visits to Sandy Park in the tournament.
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Ben White, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (capt), 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Moray Low, 19 Don Armand, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Pat Phibbs, 22 Ian Whitten, 23 Tom James.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Harry Sloan, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Luke Wallace, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler (capt).
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Louis Grimoldby, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague.
Date: Sunday, September 28
Kick-off: 14:00 BST
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Ashley Rowden, Roger Baileff
Television match official: Geoffrey Warren
Timekeeper: Laurie Bryant
Assessor: Chris White