Preview: Wasps v Exeter Chiefs

Date published: December 4 2015

1022.6666666666666x767__origin__0x0_Sam_Jones_Wasps_Leinster

Sam Jones is set to make his 100th appearance for Wasps when they welcome Exeter to the Ricoh Arena.

Jones lines up on the blindside flank, alongside George Smith, who was named Green Flag Forward of the Month this month, and Guy Thompson, who makes his first Premiership start of the season.

James Haskell misses out with a shoulder injury, so Wasps' co-captain Matt Mullan will skipper the side. Mullan starts on the loosehead, with Lorenzo Cittadini coming in at tighthead, alongside Ashley Johnson at hooker.

Bradley Davies and James Gaskell form the second row partnership, with Joe Launchbury close to a return, but not quite 100 percent fit.

There is a new half-back pairing, with Dan Robson and Jimmy Gopperth starting at nine and ten. The backline is otherwise unchanged from the starting line-up in last Saturday's win against London Irish.

On the bench, Alapati Leiua is ready to make his first appearance of the season, following a knee operation during the off-season.

Wasps' Director of Rugby Dai Young said: "This season, with no breaks, every single weekend is massive. As soon as one big game goes, there's immediately another around the corner.

"This week, we're up against one of the form sides in the Premiership in Exeter Chiefs, who deservedly sit second in the table. They're a real quality team, who have only lost one league game so far this season, so we are viewing this as a massive test for us.

"Exeter are very comfortable playing high tempo, multi-phase rugby – they are confident keeping the ball for long periods of time, in an attempt to grind you down. Off the back of that, they also have a very good set piece and are a really exciting team to watch and tough to defend against. Rob [Baxter] has to take a lot of credit for the team that he has built.

"We've had a good month in Europe and a good away-win last weekend, but that will mean nothing if we don't back it up at home this weekend. All our focus is on defending our own patch at the Ricoh Arena this Saturday. We are determined to build consistency and we know we have to win our home games if we want to get somewhere near our goals for this season, to maintain our top six status.

"Exeter are currently five points ahead of us, so it's a huge game in context of the league table – a win would narrow the gap, a loss would see the Chiefs stretch away. If we want to improve and climb the table, it's important to pick up wins against the teams around you. These are the games that you have got to win.”

Meanwhile, Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter is boosted by the news that skipper Jack Yeandle – who was forced off early during last weekend's win – has been passed fit.

Also back in harness are props Ben Moon and Tomas Francis, together with Geoff Parling in the second row and Sam Hill, who is preferred in the centre to Ian Whitten.

The big blows, however, are that back row duo Don Armand and Dave Ewers are both missing, so experienced duo Tom Johnson and Julian Salvi come into the starting XV with Ben White added to the bench.

Form: Wasps have won their last four matches in all competitions since their 16-24 defeat at Leicester on 1 November. Wasps have won all three matches they have played in all tournaments this season at the Ricoh Arena, and have yet to concede a try there. Exeter Chiefs solitary defeat in Premiership rugby this season came on a visit to Bath on the opening weekend. The Chiefs beat Newcastle 41-3 on their most recent away trip in the competition but have not won two in a row on the road in Premiership Rugby since September 2014. The last four encounters between the two clubs have all gone the way of home field advantage whilst Exeter’s most recent victory on Wasps soil came at Adams Park in April 2013. 

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Ben Jacobs, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 George Smith, 6 Sam Jones, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Ashley Johnson, 1 Matt Mullan (c)
Replacements: 16 Edd Sherrington, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Alapati Leiua

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Sam Hill, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Moray Low, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Ben White, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Ian Whitten, 23 Olly Woodburn

Date: Saturday, December 5
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Kelvin Stewart, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Keith Lewis

COMMENTS