Preview: Exeter v Sale

Date published: May 15 2015

Team news for the Chiefs sees England international Jack Nowell return to the fray having sat out last weekend’s match at Allianz Park.

He returns in place of Byron McGuigan at full-back, whilst up front Dave Ewers misses out on the clash with a head injury, so Don Armand – back to full fitness – comes in to fill the number six jersey.

The game will also mark the final home game for Australia international and club captain Dean Mumm, who is set to return to the Waratahs after three seasons in England.

"You look at Exeter Chiefs right now and we are level on points and level on wins with Saracens with Leicester one point ahead of us," said head coach Rob Baxter.

"That is what the table is saying, we are there or thereabouts with just one round of the season left. It’s all to play for us, but the most important thing is we focus on our job, which is to make sure we play very well here against Sale.

"What we have to do is avoid getting distracted about what’s happening between Leicester and Northampton and what London Welsh and Saracens are doing, let them get distracted by one another, instead let’s make sure we get the one thing we can control which is a good performance here."

Meanwhile, Sale Sharks players are ready and fully motivated ahead of Saturday.

Steve Diamond has named an unchanged starting line-up with Nathan Hines and Mark Cueto making their final appearances before retiring. There is one change to the bench, with Mark Easter coming in.

Ahead of the game Steve Diamond said, "We've got a lot to play for. We're in an unlikely position where if we win the game, and get a bonus point, against one of the top performing teams, we could, if results go our way, get into sixth spot!

"Since Christmas we've lost two or three crucial games – whether that is the quality of the squad, or the opposition playing better than us on the day is debatable. We will be disappointed if we don't make into the Champions Cup."

Form: As it stands Exeter Chiefs will probably require a bonus point victory to give themselves a chance of a semi-final berth – less if other results go their way. The Chiefs only defeat at Sandy Park in any tournament since mid-September was at the hands of Gloucester in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 3rd January. Sale Sharks must win to keep themselves in the hunt for a European Champions Cup spot in 2016/17, and even then it may still not be enough. The Sharks have been triumphant only once on the road since November: 52-12 at London Welsh in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 15th February. The two sides have met on nine previous occasions in the tournament, with Exeter taking the first five and Sale three of the last four. The Sharks only previous win at Sandy Park came in round 20 last year with a 55-12 scoreline, comfortably Exeter’s biggest ever reversal at the venue.

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Jack Nowell, 14 Ian Whitten, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Ben White, 6 Don Armand, 5 Mitch Lees, 4 Dean Mumm (c), 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.

Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Max Bodilly, 23 Byron McGuigan.

Sale: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Josh Beaumont, 7 David Seymour, 6 Dan Braid (c), 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jonathan Mills, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Eifion Lewis Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Michael Paterson, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mike Haley.

Date: Saturday, May 16
Kick-off: 15:30 BST, 14:30 GMT
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Roy Maybank, Roger Baileff
TMO: Geoffrey Warren