Planet Rugby

Preview: Worcester v Exeter

11th April 2014 11:45

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Returns: David Lemi

David Lemi and Euan Murray both return to the Warriors starting line-up for this Saturday's Aviva Premiership clash with Exeter Chiefs.

Winger Lemi missed the win at Newcastle Falcons with injury but returns to the backline alongside Ryan Lamb, Ravai Fatiaki, Alex Grove and Josh Drauniniu, who is set for his 50th Warriors appearance.

Jonny Arr starts at scrum-half while Chris Pennell, who has played every minute of every league match this season, will again start at full-back.

Meanwhile, Murray lines up next to Ofa Fainga'anuku and Agustin Creevy in the front-row with James Percival and Mariano Galarza in the second-row.

Mike Williams will feature again at flanker next to Sam Betty and skipper Jonathan Thomas, while Paul Warwick returns to the replacements.

"I'm not going to mess around and create opportunities at this stage of the season," said Worcester boss Dean Ryan.

"We have given people chances but there won't be anyone coming from the outside now. We will stick with this group.

"Exeter beat us convincingly at their place despite us having a lot of the ball, and in the LV= Cup at Sixways we gave some players some game-time and we weren't at the races.

"We got a great response after that and we've been on a good run since that in terms of being competitive week-in week-out.

"We had a huge confidence boost two weeks ago, we're fresh and this gives us every chance of getting something."

Meanwhile, team news for the Chiefs ahead of Saturday's trip sees Baxter re-jig his pack somewhat.

Alex Brown comes in at tighthead for Hoani Tui, Don Armand makes his first Premiership start in the second-row alongside Damian Welch, and skipper Dean Mumm is switched to the back-row in place of Tom Johnson.

Behind, the experienced Steenson takes over at fly-half; Sam Hill partners Ian Whitten in the midfield and the back three has a new-look with Matt Jess joined by Fetu'u Vainikolo and Phil Dollman; whilst on the bench, Craig Mitchell and James Phillips also return to the fray.

"We know it's going to be a tough game up there, but what I want to see is us getting ourselves back up and playing in a fresh and energetic manner and just looking forward to playing games of Premiership rugby again," said Exeter boss Rob Baxter.

"Worcester's performances have slowly been improving, there results have been getting closer, and that in itself shows they are becoming more and more competitive."

Form: Dean Ryan's side are still nine points adrift at the bottom, despite beating fellow strugglers Newcastle Falcons 17-12 in round 18. They have not won back-to-back league games since January 2012 but LV= Cup champions Exeter Chiefs visit Sixways in a mini slump of their own. The last time the two sides met, in February, Exeter ran out comfortable 42-3 winners but Thomas expects victory in Newcastle to have energised his teammates. Despite last month's cup final triumph, the Chiefs have won just one of their last eight Aviva Premiership encounters - an 18-0 victory against London Irish in round 16. Rob Baxter's side have also not won away in the competition since November but they have won their last six matches against Worcester in all tournaments, going back to 2004.

The teams:

Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Ravai Fatiaki, 11 David Lemi, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Jonathan Thomas (c), 7 Sam Betty, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 James Percival, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 Paul Andrew, 18 Rob O'Donnell, 19 Semisi Taulava, 20 Richard de Carpentier, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Paul Warwick, 23 Andy Symons

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Dean Mumm, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Don Armand, 3 Alex Brown, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 James Phillips, 20 James Scaysbrook, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Luke Arscott

Date: Saturday, April 12
Venue: Sixways
Kickoff: 15:00 (local, 14:00 GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Roger Baileff and Ashley Rowden
TMO: Graham Hughes

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