Fixtures - Top Bar

Chiefs side to face Saracens

SHill-Chiefs-0502

Rob Hunter insists Exeter Chiefs are fully focused on the task in hand as they prepare to welcome Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens to Sandy Park on Sunday (1pm).

With just two points separating last season’s champions and the Chiefs at the summit of the table, the stakes are certainly high for both clubs as they reach the halfway point of the domestic season.

Buoyed by their bonus point victory at Worcester Warriors last time out, the Devon club will not only be looking to build on that success, but at the same time inflict a blow of their own on the Londoners, who battled back from 13-0 down against Bath a week ago to triumph 19-13 at Allianz Park.

Although both sides are without key personnel due to injuries and Six Nations call-ups, Exeter forwards coach Hunter believes there is still enough talent on display to serve up a Sunday feast.

"It’s a big game, a top of the table clash," he said. "Sometimes you have to pinch yourself and remember that although it feels later in the year, it’s still only the halfway point of the season and there’s still a lot of rugby to be played between now and the end of the season.

"On one hand you don’t want to get too tied up with the fact that it’s first versus second, but on the other hand it’s a fantastic position to be in because if we win, we go top and that’s a great position to be in."

Having negotiated recent weeks without a flurry of their key names, the injury status is improving for the Chiefs, who last weekend welcomed back both Luke Cowan-Dickie and Sam Hill after spells out. Elsewhere, Dave Ewers, Damian Welch and Mitch Lees are also continuing their rehab programmes, whilst the sight of Henry Slade running on grass this week was another boost, even though the England star is still a least six weeks away from a competitive return.

As well as those on the sidelines, the Chiefs will also have to contend without the likes of Tomas Francis, Michele Campagnaro and Jack Nowell over the coming weeks as they have all been included in Six Nations squads for their respective countries.

But like the Chiefs, Saracens are also without a glut of big-name players due to internationals, injuries and, in the case of winger Chris Ashton, a 10-week suspension which was this week upheld on appeal.

Even without such talent, Hunter is well aware of the threat the Londoners pose to Exeter’s 13-month long unbeaten home record this weekend.

"Are they are full strength? Probably not," he conceded. "But at the same time you can say they still have a lot of quality in depth within their squad. Whatever side they put out, you know they will always be very well prepared. They are massively professional in what they do and they are fantastically coached.

"Mark McCall is one of the best head coaches in the Premiership and he brings together his team and his coaches in a way that is very impressive. Regardless of who they put out onto the field on Sunday, we know they will be a tough side to play against."

Equally, Hunter believes the Chiefs will be just as tough for Sarries to overcome, adding: "There will be others out there asking is this the best time to play Exeter Chiefs when we have all of our guys missing as well? As I said, I think whoever takes to the pitch this weekend, it’s going to be one helluva game."

Although victorious at Sixways last Sunday, the Chiefs have made five changes to their starting XV for this weekend’s tussle. Skipper Jack Yeandle – who missed out against Worcester due to illness – returns in a front-row that also sees recalls for props Ben Moon and Moray Low.

Elsewhere in the pack, Ollie Atkins is given the nod in the second row alongside Geoff Parling, while behind Sam Hill fills the void in midfield left by the absent Campagnaro.

On the bench, Harry Williams is brought in as tight-head cover, while Lewis Stevenson – who recently re-joined the club from Ulster – gets his first involvement. The only other change sees Max Bodilly brought in as cover for the back division.

With personnel in place and last week’s games reviewed extensively, Hunter is hopeful that the Chiefs can maintain their winning formula at home.

"We’ve set some high standards this season, especially here at home," said Hunter. "That, however, comes with better squads and spending more time together. People will talk about discipline, but from our perspective it’s not just about giving penalties away in games.

"It’s also about how you catch and pass and you’re discipline in how you move about and where you put yourself on the pitch. I think our standards are increasing each year in that and it’s very much driven by what the players do and what they want to achieve as a group. You have got to have those standards in order to get bonus points away from home, like we did last week at Worcester."

Certainly more of the same will be craved this weekend in a game which is heading towards yet another Sandy Park sell-out.

15 Phil Dollman
14 Olly Woodburn
13 Ian Whitten
12 Sam Hill
11 James Short
10 Gareth Steenson
9 Will Chudley

1 Ben Moon
2 Jack Yeandle (capt)
3 Moray Low
4 Ollie Atkins
5 Geoff Parling
6 Don Armand
7 Julian Salvi
8 Thomas Waldrom

16 Luke Cowan-Dickie
17 Alec Hepburn
18 Harry Williams
19 Lewis Stevenson
20 Kai Horstmann
21 Dave Lewis
22 Will Hooley
23 Max Bodilly

Latest News

Worcester Warriors capture Samoa lock Chris Vui

Warriors have completed the signing of versatile Samoa forward Chris Vui till the end of the season. For everything you…

Chris Vui

Wallabies lock Will Skelton joins Saracens

Australian international forward Will Skelton has joined Saracens on a short-term deal. For everything you need to know about Saracens…

Will Skelton

Rowe hails ‘fantastic’ year for Exeter Chiefs

Exeter Rugby Club chairman and chief executive, Tony Rowe OBE, heralded a “fantastic” past year – on and off the…

Exeter Chiefs celebrate

Dan Tuohy joins Bristol Rugby with immediate effect

Dan Tuohy has penned a deal with Bristol Rugby to make the switch to Aviva Premiership Rugby with immediate effect.…

Dan Tuohy

Ally Hogg, Cooper Vuna, Aaron Morris, Lachlan Turner, Bryce Heem and Dan Robson head the Opta Rugby Rankings

Attacks dominated as Newcastle Falcons claimed a dramatic win over Harlequins this weekend in Premiership Rugby but Ally Hogg starred…

allyhogg16sb1111

Premiership Rugby backs Newcastle’s bid for 2018 European Rugby Cup Finals

Premiership Rugby today confirmed its “100% support” for Newcastle’s bid to become host city for European club rugby union's showpiece…

Newcastle Falcons celebrate

Newcastle launches bid for 2018 European Rugby Cup finals

Newcastle is bidding to become the host city for European club rugby union's showpiece weekend in May 2018. The aim…

Newcastle Falcons celebrate

Aviva Premiership Rugby wrap: Round 10

Maro Itoje could not mark his return to a Saracens jersey with a victory – but his director of rugby…

BATH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03:  Maro Itoje of  Saracens is tackled by Max Lahiff of Bath during the Aviva Premiership match between Bath Rugby and Saracens at the Recreation Ground on December 3, 2016 in Bath, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Pat Lam confirmed as Bristol Rugby head coach

Bristol Rugby is delighted to announce the appointment of Pat Lam as the Club’s new Head Coach. The 48 year-old…

Pat Lam

Newcastle Falcons v Saracens kick-off time change

Premiership Rugby can confirm that the kick-off time for the Aviva Premiership Rugby Round 17 Newcastle Falcons v Saracens fixture…

Aviva Premiership ball

Match Reaction: Worcester Warriors 12 Wasps 26

Wasps maintained the pressure on Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders Saracens with success over Worcester Warriors – a victory Dai Young…

Rob Miller deputised in sterling fashion (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Match Reaction: Newcastle Falcons 38 Harlequins 32

Dean Richards’ Newcastle Falcons side are evolving according to the director of rugby, after he saw his side run in…

Generated by  IJG JPEG Library