Fixtures - Top Bar

Chiefs side to face Wasps

Rob Baxter insists his Exeter Chiefs side are in “good nick” ahead of their seasonal opener against Wasps in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday (3pm).

Runners-up last season, the Chiefs head for a testing away-day at the Ricoh Arena looking to lay down a solid foundation from which to attack the 2016/17 season.

An unbeaten pre-season programme – which saw the Devon club record victories over Guinness Pro12 sides Scarlets, Ulster and Newport-Gwent Dragons – have given a solid enough base from which to build, but Baxter knows the hard work starts this weekend, up against a familiar foe in the shape of Wasps.

The two clubs met four times last season, including the Premiership play-off semi-final at Sandy Park, when the Chiefs notched up a third win. Home and away wins in the regular season were also high points for Baxter’s side, but it was the Midlanders who triumphed, right at the death, when they collided in the European Champions Cup quarter-final.

Baxter expects this latest installment to throw up another intriguing battle, but at the same time believes his team are in fine fettle for this opening skirmish.

“It’s that weird time of year,” said Baxter. “A week ago I would say we felt in good nick and ready to go, but here we are a few days away from the big kick-off and you start to wonder if everything is in place. The truth is the players have been very good in training, diligent about everything they have done, and they’ve been very good at taking on the new stuff we’ve introduced.

“For me, the reality is we should be looking forward to the game, simply because we are ready to play some competitive rugby. In a lot of ways we’re lucky to be going to the Ricoh as it’s a great place to go and play and we’re going to come up against a very good, yet very tough, Wasps side.”

And with very minimal change to the playing stock at Sandy Park this summer, it’s a familiar looking line-up that will take to the field on Sunday. Former Bath back Ollie Devoto will be handed his league debut in the centre alongside Sam Hill for the visitors, while Aussie newcomers Dave Dennis and Greg Holmes will both be looking to make impressions of their own, should they be summoned from the bench.

On the sidelines they will be joined by club captain Jack Yeandle and last season’s leading points’ scorer Gareth Steenson, so Don Armand – fresh from his exploits with the England Saxons during the summer – will lead the Chiefs into battle for Round One.

“We finished runners-up last season, so we shouldn’t really be looking to have too much change,” said Baxter. “A lot of what we did last season was very good because we were the best defensive team in the Premiership and second best attacking-wise, so it’s been more about fine tuning things this summer, rather than making any kind of wholesale changes.

“Here at the club we are big believers in having a couple of systems that work really well in both attack and defence and we believe that the best way to improve is if we can get better at them and upskill in all departments. We want to get better individually which will help us get better as a team.

“If you look at what Saracens have done in the past when they have lost a semi-final or a final, they’ve not tended to panic or change masses. What they do instead is get good at their base qualities, looking to bring in one or two players who can add to the qualities of what they have got there, as well as work hard on the retention of their top players.

“In a lot of ways that’s been a bit of a lesson for us. Yes, we have lost a Premiership Final, but there are two important things you do after that. One is you don’t overreact because you lost, the other is you don’t under-react. We’ve not come into the season everything is going to be great because we got to a final last year.

“At the same time, though, we’ve also said if we work hard at what got us into that final and to the top end of the league, then we give ourselves a great chance to get back there again this year. That’s the message we’ve kind of installed into the squad over pre-season and hopefully they will use that over the course of the season.”

Like the Chiefs, Wasps – who have invested heavily in new talent of their own, including the likes of Danny Cipriani, Kurtley Beale, Willy Le Roux and Kyle Eastmond – will also be wanting to kick-off the new season on a high note.

Baxter is well aware of the threat they pose to his charges, adding: “It’s east to say we know each other inside out, but both sides will want to adapt their game. They will have worked on new things, just the same as we have over the summer.

“What I know is it should be another hugely exciting game. First games can be edgy to start with, referees are getting back into the swing of things as well, so the whole thing needs to build a bit of pace.

“As I said, it should be a tremendous fixture. Dai [Young], I know, is ambitious to achieve things with his club, so it’s a great challenge, but that is what being in the Premiership is all about these days.”

 

CHIEFS SIDE TO FACE WASPS

15 Phil Dollman

14 Olly Woodburn

13 Ollie Devoto

12 Sam Hill

11 Ian Whitten

10 Henry Slade

9 Will Chudley

 

1 Ben Moon

2 Luke Cowan-Dickie

3 Harry Williams

4 Mitch Lees

5 Damian Welch

6 Don Armand (capt)

7 Julian Salvi

8 Thomas Waldrom

 

16 Jack Yeandle

17 Alec Hepburn

18 Greg Holmes

19 Geoff Parling

20 Dave Dennis

21 Dave Lewis

22 Gareth Steenson

23 James Short

Latest News

Harlequins Ladies coach savours upcoming Women’s Super Rugby season

Women’s sport is booming according to former Richmond prop and Scotland captain Karen Findlay, who is now relishing the prospect…

Aviva Tackling Numbers programme celebrated at Corporate Engagement Awards

Premiership Rugby and its Aviva Tackling Numbers programme enjoyed not one but two moments in the spotlight at the Corporate…

Corporate Engagement Awards

Lions ready for battle on eve of All Blacks Test

After months of waiting and weeks of build-up, The British & Irish Lions are ready to face the toughest challenge…

Saracens and London Irish to kick off the season at Twickenham

SARACENS and London Irish will help launch the 2017-18 Premiership Rugby season after being chosen as the home sides for…

Ex-England star Susie Appleby excited to lead Gloucester-Hartpury in inaugural Women’s Super Rugby campaign

Former England international Susie Appleby believes it’s an exciting time for women’s rugby as she issues a rallying cry to…

Wasps confirm 2017/18 pre-season schedule

Wasps have today confirmed their 2017/18 pre-season schedule, which will see them face Connacht Rugby and Ulster Rugby, as well…

Wasps celebrate

Quartet sign Academy contracts with Bath Rugby

Bath Rugby is delighted to confirm that Rhys Davies, Wil Partington, Miles Reid, and Kieran Verden have all signed long-term…

Todd Blackadder

Clare Daniels hoping to inspire the next generation of female rugby referees

The first female official in Aviva Premiership Rugby history, Clare Daniels, has urged girls and women to take up officiating…

Luke McLean enthused by London Irish move

Luke McLean is looking to reignite his international career under Italy Head Coach Conor O’Shea following his summer move to…

All Black Francis Saili joins Harlequins

Harlequins is excited to confirm today (Wednesday 21st June) that All Black Francis Saili has joined the Club. Commenting on…

Francis Saili

Bath Rugby sign Phillips from Bristol Rugby

Bath Rugby is pleased to announce the signing of James Phillips, who has joined the Club from Bristol Rugby until…

JamesPhillips1

Nowell gets two tries as Lions see off Chiefs in Hamilton

Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell returned to his sparkling best with two tries for the British & Irish Lions in their…

Nalaga a big coup for Irish says international teammate Tikoirotuma

Explosive wing Napolioni Nalaga can be an big hit in every sense of the word during next season's Aviva Premiership…

Masi and Everard return to Wasps alongside new Academy Manager Jonathan Pendlebury

Wasps are pleased to announce a new Academy structure ahead of the 2017/18 season. The new set-up sees former Yorkshire…

The new Wasps academy coaches

Sale Sharks announce signing of Australia international James O’Connor

Sale Sharks have announced the latest in a wave of world class signings, as they confirm Australian International James O’Connor…

Sale Sharks announce signing of Australia international James O’Connor

Lions prepared for final warm-up before All Blacks Test

After a crucial victory against the Maori All Blacks, the British & Irish Lions are just a single match away…

Wasps sign Paul Doran-Jones and David Langley

Wasps today confirm the signing of props Paul Doran-Jones and David Langley, while loosehead Tom Bristow is confirmed as leaving…

Paul Doran-Jones

Venter integral to Du Plessis opting to join London Irish

Petrus Du Plessis says Brendan Venter was a key factor in his decision to move to London Irish this summer.…

Fight and spirit shone through despite defeat, says England U20 coach Vass

Head coach Ian Vass hailed his England U20 side’s fight and spirit after they were beaten in the World Rugby…