Preview: Exeter Chiefs v Wasps

Date published: February 10 2017

Exeter boss Rob Baxter recalls a number of his frontline stars to face Wasps having given a number of them the past fortnight off during the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

However, one man who featured against both Wasps and Bristol in the Cup was Sam Simmonds, who has been rewarded for two notable displays with his maiden Premiership start at number eight. He will pack down in a back row alongside the experienced duo of Dave Dennis and Don Armand.

Ahead of them, the front row comprises Messrs Moon, Cowan-Dickie and Holmes, while Mitch Lees and Jonny Hill offer notable force in the second row.

In the back division, Gareth Steenson skippers the side alongside fellow half-back Jack Maunder; Ollie Devoto and Ian Whitten team up in the midfield, while the back three is made up of Olly Woodburn, James Short and Phil Dollman.

On the bench, the Chiefs are hopeful to include Henry Slade, who despite being retained by England as a travelling replacement for their clash with Wales in Cardiff tomorrow, should be available for action on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Wasps director of rugby Dai Young has named his side to take on Exeter Chiefs.

While the Six Nations rages on, Wasps return to Premiership action this weekend without a number of their international stars, as they travel to Sandy Park, in what will be the sternest of tests for the squad.

There are a number of players who retain their places having impressed in the recent Anglo-Welsh competition in recent weeks, as well as some welcome returns to the matchday 23.

Thomas Young returns from the Welsh Six Nations camp this week to take up a spot on the openside flank, joined in the back row by Alex Rieder and Ashley Johnson, both of whom have featured heavily in the Anglo-Welsh Cup over the last two weeks.

Simon McIntyre and Carlo Festuccia also remain in the front row, where they are joined by Marty Moore, who packs down at tighthead prop, with Matt Symons and Kearnan Myall combining in the second row.

The backline has a familiar feel, with Dan Robson and Danny Cipriani forming the half-back partnership, Josh Bassett on one wing, Christian Wade on the other and Kurtley Beale at full-back. Kyle Eastmond and Jimmy Gopperth combine in the centres.

On the bench, there is a welcome return for Tom Cruse, who is named in the matchday 23 for the first time since injury ruled him out in November. Tom Bristow, Will Rowlands and Alapati Leiua all retain places in the squad after impressing in the Anglo Welsh Cup.

The substitutes also see James Gaskell, Jake Cooper-Woolley, Joe Simpson and Frank Halai among those ready to make an impact from the bench.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, Director of Rugby Young said: “Sandy Park is never an easy place to go and, having never won there, it would be nice to change that this weekend, but we are very aware of how difficult it will be for us on Sunday. 

“Exeter are a great side and they have hit a very good run of form recently, losing just two of their last 13 games in all competitions, so we will have to hit the ground running as we go into this very difficult block of Premiership games.

"We’re really pleased to see a large number of our guys representing their country in the Six Nations and that has given a number of players here the opportunity to step up this weekend.

"The nature of the Premiership means that you can’t rely on fifteen or even twenty-three players and we’re confident going into Sunday’s game that the players who have been given an opportunity will take it with both hands.”

Form: Exeter Chiefs only defeat in the last eight rounds of the Premiership was 10-13 at home to Bath at the end of October. The Chiefs are the best side in the competition on current form having tallied 25 league points from their last six matches. Wasps have won their last five Premiership Rugby fixtures since their 18-36 defeat at Gloucester in Round 8. Premiership Rugby’s top try-scoring side with 51 have run in ten more tries than their nearest rivals this campaign. Wasps beat Exeter 25-20 in Coventry in round 1 and have never achieved a Premiership Rugby season’s double over the Chiefs. Wasps have visited Sandy Park on nine previous occasions in all competitions, losing them all, and obtaining just two losing bonus points in the process.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Harry Wiliams, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Lachie Turner

Wasps: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Jimmy Gopperth, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Alex Rieder, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Ashley Johnson (c), 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Simon McIntyre
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 James Gaskell, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Alapati Leiua, 23 Frank Halai

Date: Sunday, February 12
Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal, Ross Campbell
TMO: David Grashoff