Preview: Wasps v Exeter Chiefs

Date published: September 2 2016

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Wasps will have four new signings in their matchday 23 to take on Exeter Chiefs at the Ricoh Arena this Sunday.

Tommy Taylor, Marty Moore and Matt Symons are in line to make their competitive debuts, while Danny Cipriani returns to Wasps starting line-up roughly six-years on from his last appearance, forming the halfback partnership with Dan Robson.

Jimmy Gopperth lines up at inside centre, providing another playmaker in Wasps’ midfield alongside Elliot Daly, with injuries ruling out Kyle Eastmond, Alapati Leiua and Kurtley Beale at 12.

Wasps back three has a more familiar look, made up of Rob Miller, Christian Wade and Josh Bassett, who have all impressed during pre-season.

James Gaskell forms the second row partnership with skipper Joe Launchbury, and is raring to go for his first competitive start after a six-month injury lay-off.

Lining up alongside Nathan Hughes and Sam Jones in the backrow, Guy Thompson makes his first competitive appearance since injury struck against Toulon in the Champions Cup in January.

Matt Mullan and Phil Swainston provide the foundations up front, while Jake Cooper-Woolley misses out with injury.

Looking ahead to the challenge Wasps are preparing for on Sunday, Director of Rugby Dai Young said: “We know each other pretty well after a number of meetings last season.

“We just edged it against Exeter in the European Quarter Final, but they knocked us out in the Premiership Semi-final and beat us at home in the league last season, so we know how tough an outfit they are and have huge respect for what Rob Baxter and his squad have achieved over the past few seasons, deservedly reaching the Premiership Final.

“Exeter bring a lot of intensity in defence and their attack is exceptional, especially when they get into your 22. Any small slip-ups will be punished, so we need to make sure we take our attack to them, but are disciplined in what we do.

“The players are itching for competitive rugby to start after a tough pre-season, including games against Yorkshire Carnegie and Bristol Rugby, and both sides will be determined to hit the ground running. I’ve no doubt this will be the tightest, most competitive Premiership yet.”

Meanwhile, Chiefs boss Rob Baxter insists hi side are in “good nick” ahead of their seasonal opener.

With very minimal change to the playing stock at Sandy Park this summer, it’s a familiar looking line-up that will take to the field on Sunday.

Former Bath back Ollie Devoto will be handed his league debut in the centre alongside Sam Hill for the visitors, while Aussie newcomers Dave Dennis and Greg Holmes will both be looking to make impressions of their own, should they be summoned from the bench.

On the sidelines they will be joined by club captain Jack Yeandle and last season’s leading points’ scorer Gareth Steenson, so Don Armand – fresh from his exploits with the England Saxons during the summer – will lead the Chiefs into battle for Round One.

Baxter expects the latest installment of the Premiership to throw up another intriguing battle, but at the same time believes his team are in fine fettle for this opening skirmish.

“It’s that weird time of year,” he said.

“A week ago I would say we felt in good nick and ready to go, but here we are a few days away from the big kick-off and you start to wonder if everything is in place. The truth is the players have been very good in training, diligent about everything they have done, and they’ve been very good at taking on the new stuff we’ve introduced.

“For me, the reality is we should be looking forward to the game, simply because we are ready to play some competitive rugby. In a lot of ways we’re lucky to be going to the Ricoh as it’s a great place to go and play and we’re going to come up against a very good, yet very tough, Wasps side.”

Form: Wasps have been defeated in their opening game of a Premiership season for the past four years. Wasp’ only victory in their last four matches in all tournaments last campaign was 38-12 over London Irish at the Ricoh Arena in Round 22. Wasps have won their last nine matches at the venue in all tournaments since Saracens were victorious there in the Premiership on 27 December. Exeter Chiefs’ only victory in Round 1 in the past three seasons was 52-0 at London Welsh in 2014. The Chiefs won their most recent away game 62-24 against Harlequins at the Stoop in Round 22 of the Premiership last season and have not won back to back games in the competition in 2016. The two sides met on four occasions during the 2015/16 last season with Wasps only victory being 25-24 at Ricoh Arena in the quarter-final of the European Champions Cup in April – the Chiefs won all three Premiership encounters including the semi-final at Sandy Park in May.

The teams:

Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 Sam Jones, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Matt Symons, 20 Alex Rieder, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Brendan Macken, 23 Frank Halai

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

Date: Sunday, September 4
Venue: Ricoh Arena
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant Referees: Gareth Copsey, Jonathan Healy
TMO: Stuart Terheeg

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