Preview: Exeter Chiefs v Bath

Date published: October 28 2016

Exeter return to domestic matters this Sunday with a mouth-watering showdown against local rivals Bath at a packed out Sandy Park.

With just two wins on the board so far this season, the Chiefs – who still sit fifth in the current standings – know they need to rediscover some of the key elements of their play, which last season took them all the way to the Premiership final at Twickenham.

Although not a million miles away from achieving that, those within the Devon club have made no secret that more intensity and a sharper edge is needed in performances, continuing against this weekend against Todd Blackadder’s in-form visitors.

Exeter boss Rob Baxter knows from past experience that games between the two clubs tend to serve up tight encounters, so he’s calling on his troops to stand up and be ready for the battle that lies ahead.

"I think we’re seeing the team improve bit by bit," he said. 

"As a team I want us to take lots of little steps over the course of this season and not talk about all of a sudden there needs to be some kind of miracle because sport is not like that. What we have to be prepared to do is work very hard and take lots of little steps, not just as individuals, but as a team."

Team news for the Chiefs sees Baxter make only one enforced change to his starting XV. A bicep injury to flanker Julian Salvi sustained against Ulster means he is set for a spell on the sidelines, so Australian international Dave Dennis is promoted from the bench to start in the back-row alongside Kai Horstmann and Thomas Waldrom.

On the bench, the void left by Dennis is filled by compatriot Ben White, otherwise the remainder of the squad remains unchanged.

Meanwhile, Bath have made eight changes to the side that started against Bristol in the European Challenge Cup.

Five of the changes come in the pack, as Ross Batty and Henry Thomas return to the front row, packing down alongside Nick Auterac.

Dave Attwood takes his place alongside Luke Charteris in the engine room, whilst Tom Ellis and Charlie Ewels come in on the openside flank and at number eight respectively with Matt Garvey continuing on the blindside.

Kahn Fotuali’i and George Ford re-establish their highly effective half-back partnership, and Semesa Rokoduguni takes his place on the right wing. Aled Brew is named on the left wing, with Matt Banahan and Jonathan Joseph teaming up in the midfield once more and Tom Homer remains at fullback.

Bath's Director of Rugby, Todd Blackadder, is looking forward to the game.

"I’ve heard what great games we’ve had with Exeter in the past few seasons, and I’m sure Sunday’s game will be another," he said.

"The game is going to be a big test for us, in terms of measuring where we are as a team – it will show us what we’re doing right as well as wrong, and mean we can take that forward into a pretty challenging run of Premiership games that we have coming up after the Anglo Welsh Cup.

"The injury list is getting shorter, which means we have a decent number of bodies out training for the first real time this season, and that’s meant we’ve had some really good sessions as we’ve prepared for this game – we’re just looking forward to getting out there and playing now."

Form: Exeter Chiefs are without a victory in their last four fixtures in all tournaments since beating Bristol 41- 17 at Ashton Gate on 23rd September. The Chiefs have won just one of their last four home games: 36- 25 against Harlequins in round 3 of the Premiership. Bath have lost only once under the stewardship of Todd Blackadder: 14-34 at Leicester in round 4. Each side won its respective home game when the two sides met in Premiership last season whilst Bath have not been victorious at Sandy Park since 27-23 win in the Premiership in 2014.

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Lachlan Turner, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Henry Slade, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson(c), 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Kai Horstmann, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Moray Low,
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Ben White, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Sam Hill, 23 Ollie Devoto

Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Aled Brew, 10 George Ford(c), 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Charlie Ewels, 7 Tom Ellis, 6 Matt Garvey(c), 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Ross Batty, 1 Nick Auterac
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Will Homer, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Jeff Williams

Date: Sunday, October 30 
Venue: Sandy Park
Time: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT) 
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Roger Baileff & Luke Pearce
TMO: David Grashoff