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Preview: Exeter v Worcester

25th October 2013 11:55

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Fetu u Vainikolo Exeter v Cardiff HEC 2013

Fetu'u Vainikolo: At 14 for Exeter

Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter has made three changes to his starting XV for Saturday's Premiership clash with Worcester at Sandy Park.

Brett Sturgess returns at loosehead prop in place of Ben Moon, Jack Yeandle gets the nod at hooker over Chris Whitehead and Fetu'u Vainikolo takes over on the wing from Ian Whitten, who is nursing a hamstring injury sustained in the first half against of last weekend's clash against Glasgow.

Vainikolo's promotion from the bench means that Welshman Tom James is recalled to first team duty having recovered from an ankle injury sustained a fortnight ago.

Exeter assistant coach Ali Hepher knows the importance of the clash, particularly as the visitors have yet to win this season, and said the Chiefs coaching staff have spent all week underlining the threat posed by the Midlanders.

"You only have to look at Worcester's squad and you can see that it has quality running right through it," said Hepher.

"I've no doubt they will come through and win games, there is no question about that, but our prep has been perfect this week and we've put in a lot of hours looking at them.

"We've made sure we are fully prepared for the weekend and the messages we have been giving the players is that we have to be right on top of our game to get any kind of result this week."

Hepher emphasised that the Warriors, will arrive at Sandy Park with a handful of former Chiefs within their ranks.

Ignacio Mieres, Josh Matavesi, John Andress, Josh Drauniniu and Danny Gray have all previously pulled on the Exeter jersey and their knowledge of Chiefs life will ensure Dean Ryan's side will themselves be prepared for battle.

"As I said, they have threats right across the board," warned Hepher.

"They've got guys coming back from international duty with Argentina, they have some big ball carriers up front, whilst behind they have pace on the wings and at full-back.

"We know they can play for sure, so it's up to us to guarantee we have our systems in place to deal with whatever they throw at us, whilst at the same time impose our own game plan on them."

Meanwhile, Ofa Fainga'anuku will make his Warriors debut in this match. The giant Tongan will play in the front row alongside fellow prop Euan Murray and Argentinian international Agustin Creevy, who makes his first start at hooker.

Scrum-half Jonny Arr is in line for his first Warriors start of the 2013/14 campaign while Ignacio Mieres returns to the fly-half position.

Dean Schofield is back in the starting 15 alongside Mariano Galarza, who will make his Premiership debut.

Captain Jonathan Thomas shifts to number eight alongside Jake Abbott and Richard de Carpentier, who is also given his first Premiership start of the campaign.

On the wings, David Lemi returns at 11 and 21-year-old Dean Hammond keeps his place at 14 after impressing in the Amlin Challenge Cup. Josh Matavesi returns to partner Alex Grove in midfield, with Chris Pennell lining up at full-back.

Worcester's director of rugby Dean Ryan said: "We are up against a side who have got bucket loads of desire and commitment.

"You don't stay there if you don't have it and that's what we will be like here.

"The template they have built has succeeded. They've built around a core group of people who have illustrated the behaviour they want and they have allowed opportunities for youngsters around that. Rob has done a fantastic job there."

Form: Exeter Chiefs' solo defeat in their last four Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters was 9-21 at home to Leicester in Round Four. This remains the Chiefs only loss at Sandy Park in any tournament since March. Worcester Warriors have not won a game in any competition since London Wasps visited Sixways on 1 March. The Warriors have won only one of their last 35 away games in the Premiership since April 2009: 6-0 at Wasps on New Year's Day 2012. Exeter have won all four previous fixtures with Worcester in the Premiership, whilst the Warriors most recent triumph in Exeter came at the old County Ground in National League One in March 2004.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Jason Shoemark, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (capt), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Don Armand, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Tom James.

Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 David Lemi, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Jonny Arr,8 Jonathan Thomas (c), 7 Jake Abbott, 6 Richard de Carpentier, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Dean Schofield, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku.
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Jeremy Becasseau, 18 Rob O'Donnell, 19 Mike Williams, 20 Chris Jones, 21 Jeremy Su'u, 22 Paul Warwick, 23 Ben Howard.

Date: Saturday, October 26
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Peter Huckle, Andrew Pearce
Television match official: David Sainsbury
Timekeeper: Laurie Bryant
Assessor: Jerry Wallis/Ashley Reay

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