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Preview: Exeter Chiefs v Bath

28th December 2012 12:07

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Lee Mears R of Bath runs v Exeter

Charging: Lee Mears

A New Year maybe just days away, but Exeter Chiefs are intent on ending 2012 with a bang as they prepare to welcome Bath.

Team news for the Chiefs sees skipper Tom Hayes return in the second row in place of James Hanks, whilst behind Phil Dollman - who missed last weekend's game because of illness - returns in the centre at the expense of Ian Whitten.

The former Ulsterman and Hanks both drop down to the bench where they will be joined by returning England international Tom Johnson.

Meanwhile, Matt Banahan, Ben Skirving, Ryan Caldwell, Dave Attwood and Ollie Devoto all return to the Bath Rugby line-up as the side travel to Sandy Park.

Banahan comes back into the side at number 12, partnering Kyle Eastmond for the first time in the centres. Tom Biggs and Horacio Agulla start outside them on the wings, with Ollie Devoto making his first Aviva Premiership start at fullback. Stephen Donald and Michael Claassens continue their half-back partnership.

Skirving returns from injury to be named at number 8, with Guy Mercer and Francois Louw on the openside and blindside flanks respectively.

Attwood and Caldwell combine in the second row, whilst there are no changes to the front row, which sees David Wilson and Paul James continue either side of Lee Mears at hooker.

Form: The narrow 18-16 defeat at Gloucester was the Chiefs first loss in their last eight games in all competitions, and left them four points off the Aviva Premiership play-off zone. If they are to end 2012 on a high note they will have to do so against a Bath side they have failed to beat since entering the top flight in 2010 - with six defeats to their local rivals in all competitions since then. That run includes a 23-15 reverse at The Rec in late October - leaving Bath as the only Premiership side the Chiefs are yet to beat since their promotion. Bath are also coming into the match off the back of a defeat to a side in the top four, suffering a 22-0 turnover at the hands of a Charlie Hodgson-inspired Saracens at The Rec last weekend.

Exeter: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Phil Dollman, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Tom Hayes (c), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Simon Alcott, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Neil Clark, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Carl Rimmer, 19 James Hanks, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Kevin Barrett, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Ian Whitten.

Bath: 15 Ollie Devoto, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Kyle Eastmond, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Guy Mercer, 6 Francois Louw (c), 5 Ryan Caldwell, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 David Wilson, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Charlie Beech, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Stuart Hooper, 20 Will Skuse, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Dan Hipkiss.

Date: Saturday , December 29
Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: David Rose
Assistant referees: Peter Huckle, Andrew Pearce

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