London Irish have made four changes for this Sunday’s Aviva Premiership clash with Exeter Chiefs at the Madejski Stadium.
Theo Brophy Clews replaces Shane Geraghty at fly-half, while prop Tom Smallbone, lock Elliott Stooke and blindside flanker Ofisa Treviranus all get the nod in the pack.
The Exiles welcome the Chiefs on the back of three successive victories at the Madejski, and assistant coach Richard Whiffin is keen for his side to make it four in a row this weekend.
“The last three times we have played at the Madejski we have had positive results alongside positive performances so there is no reason why we can’t continue this run,” said Whiffin.
“It will be a tough ask against Exeter, who are a very good side and we have a lot of respect for the way they play.
“We had a good result against them at a similar time last year – they are a team that like to run the ball so hopefully it will be an exciting game and we really need to put our best foot forward for the full 80 minutes,” added Whiffin.
Irish defeated Worcester Warriors 20-13 in their last home outing, and Whiffin wants more of the same this time round, saying: “It was probably our best performance of the year against Worcester, and we have shown glimpses of what we can actually do at home.
“We are looking to make our positive actions in games more consistent. Ultimately we want to try and express ourselves as much as we can, but obviously in the right areas of the field and our decision-making will be important on Sunday.”
Meanwhile, although undone at Sale a week ago, Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter has stuck with an unchanged starting XV with his only changes coming on the bench where international duo Tomas Francis and Michele Campagnaro are included at the expense of Harry Williams and Max Bodilly.
Form: London Irish’s three victories in Premiership Rugby this season have all come in the last six rounds, and all at Madejski Stadium against Northampton, Newcastle and Worcester. The Exiles last recorded a bonus point of any kind in Premiership Rugby in round 22 last season during a 40-all draw with Wasps. Exeter Chiefs remain in second place in the Premiership Rugby table despite losing three of their last five matches in the competition. The Chiefs only win on the road in their last five matches in all tournaments was 30-15 at Worcester in round 10 of Premiership Rugby. The Chiefs only reversal in their last eight encounters with London Irish was 26-28 at Madejski Stadium in this equivalent fixture last January.
London Irish: 15 Andrew Fenby, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Ciaran Hearn, 10 Theo Brophy Clews, 9 Scott Steele, 8 Rob McCusker, 7 Luke Narraway (c), 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 David Paice, 1 Tom Smallbone
Replacements: 16 Gerard Ellis, 17 Tom Court, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Christian Lewis-Pratt
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Olly Woodbury, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Jonny Hill, 3 Moray Low, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Michele Campagnaro
Date: Sunday, February 21
Venue: Madejski Stadium
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Paul Dix
TMO: Trevor Fisher