Preview: Exeter v Worcester

Date published: April 1 2016

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Exeter will be buoyed this weekend by the return of England Grand Slam winner Jack Nowell against Worcester.

Nowell missed last week’s encounter with Saracens. The Cornishman is one of six changes to the home side, lining up in a back division which also includes the recalled Will Chudley.

Up front, Ben Moon and Moray Low are added to prop up Luke Cowan-Dickie in the front row, while Ollie Atkins and Don Armand are also included from the outset with Geoff Parling and Dave Ewers sitting this weekend out.

On the bench, there is a welcome return for Mitch Lees, who is included in a Chiefs squad for the first time since New Year’s Day, as well as returning backs Michele Campagnaro and James Short.

“Little by little we’re looking stronger,” said Exeter boss Rob Baxter.

“Last week we had Damian Welch back for the first time in a while, Sladey’s up and running and now we’ve got Nowellsy back from international duty and Mitch Lees fully fit again after injury.”

Meanwhile, tighthead prop James Johnston will make his first start for Warriors when they travel to Sandy Park.

The big Samoan is just one of two changes to the starting XV that defeated London Irish last weekend as Sam Betty returns to the side at openside flanker.

In the backs, full-back Chris Pennell, who has made the most metres in the league this season, lines up next to wingers Bryce Heem and Cooper Vuna.

Ryan Mills and Wynand Olivier continue their partnership in the centre while Tom Heathcote and Francois Hougaard start in the half-back combination.

Val Rapava Ruskin, Niall Annett and Johnston complete the front row with Donncha O’Callaghan and Darren Barry maintaining their positions in the second row.

GJ van Velze skippers the side from the back row, with Carl Kirwan moving to blindside flanker and Betty at seven.

Three Pears Academy prop Gareth Milasinovich is named on the bench, as Warriors search for a fifth win on the bounce.

Director of Rugby Dean Ryan said: “Exeter are always dangerous at home and they see the game quickly.

“I’m really looking for us to step up and see the progress we’ve made. We need to step up mentally in how we see things.

"Exeter are one of the fastest and the way they play stretches people’s thinking and can catch you off guard. We’re only two or three wins off the group above us so we’ve got to keep working away and try and close that gap.”

Form: Exeter Chiefs last five matches have all gone the way of home field advantage, whilst Exeter’s solitary loss at Sandy Park in any competition since January 2015 came when Saracens were the visitors in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 7th February 2016. Worcester Warriors are in the midst of their best ever run in Aviva Premiership Rugby having won their last four fixtures. In fact over the last six matches Worcester have tallied two more points than Exeter have. Exeter have won all seven previous Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters with Warriors, whilst Worcester’s most recent victory over the Chiefs in any tournament was 25-14 in the old Division One at the County Ground in March 2004.

The teams:

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

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze (c), 7 Sam Betty, 6 Carl Kirwan, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 James Johnston, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 
16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Dan Sanderson, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Andy Symons

Date: Saturday, April 2
Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Thomas Foley
Assistant Referees: Gareth Copsey, Ross Campbell
TMO: Keith Lewis

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