TOP BAR - Fixtures

Chiefs squad to face Ulster Rugby

Exeter Chiefs will continue their build-up to the new season tomorrow when they welcome Ulster Rugby to Sandy Park for their latest pre-season assignment.

Rob Baxter's side kicked off proceedings last weekend with a 45-3 thumping of the Scarlets on home soil, but they are expected to face a much tougher proposition from the Irish province who, incidentally, they will tackle twice in this season's European Champions Cup.

Forwards coach Rob Hunter said he and the squad were encouraged by their first run out, but said they would need to "crank things up" further this weekend as the countdown to their Aviva Premiership opener at Wasps on September 4 draws ever nearer.

"We were very pleased with last weekend overall," said Hunter. "I thought the two different sides did very well. We've looked strong, we looked fit and as people can see, we've got good depth to the squad right across the board.

"Looking at the video this week, there were a lot of positives to take from the game and it was nice to see that a few things we've worked on during the summer, we then managed to get onto the pitch. It was a strong start for us."

Keen to build on the success of a week ago, the Chiefs will be buoyed by the return of the majority of their international contingent, as well as first appearances for summer signings Ollie Devoto, Greg Holmes and Dave Dennis.

Hunter appreciates the Chiefs have a plethora of options at their disposal, but he feels having such competition across the board will only help to drive standards up at the Chiefs, who last season finished runners-up to Saracens in the Premiership and reached the last eight of the Champions Cup for the first time.

"It certainly presents us coaches with some good challenges," added Hunter. "Looking across the squad we have some seriously strong match-ups, as well as the new guys coming into the mix as well.

"Having that competition for places is huge as it not only brings the best out of everyone, but it means we do have options should the need to arise. As Rob [Baxter] said, it's up to the guys now to show their worth in these pre-season games.

"As I said, we've got a good group of guys here and inevitably a few of them will be disappointed come that first game. That, I guess, is the hardest part of the job for both players and coaches because we've got guys who have worked bloody hard for a number of months now, but we can only go with a select few for that first game.

"That's why we want every one of the guys going flat out in these games and showing what they can do. If they do that, then we'll have a tough job on our hands and they'll know that if they don't make that first game, then they can say 'fair play' to the guy that does because he will deserve the shirt."

Getting primed for battle, though, is the key and Hunter expects a step up in standard for this latest assignment.

"We expect Ulster to be strong, like us they are only two games out from the start of the season," warned Hunter. "Each week now you expect to raise your standard and it will be the same for the opposition you face.

"We know we need to crank things up to be better than last year because you know every other side will be doing exactly the same. Every side will say this is their toughest pre-season ever and we're no different.

"We think we have improved already on last year, the squad looks healthy, it looks strong and there has not been a great deal of change. Add into the mix we've had a lot of our young guys go away on international tours and get better, I think we're raring to go and this weekend will be another step forward."

Tickets for tomorrow's game are still available online or can be purchased on the day from the ticket office, which opens at 12 noon.
 
CHIEFS SIDE (1st Half)

15 Lachie Turner
14 Olly Woodburn
13 Max Bodilly
12 Sam Hill
11 Ian Whitten
10 Gareth Steenson (capt)
9 Will Chudley

1 Alec Hepburn
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie
3 Tomas Francis
4 Mitch Lees
5 Damian Welch
6 Dave Ewers
7 Julian Salvi
8 Don Armand
 
CHIEFS SIDE (2nd Half)

15 Phil Dollman
14 Matt Jess
13 Max Bodilly
12 Ollie Devoto
11 James Short
10 Henry Slade
9 Dave Lewis

1 Alec Hepburn
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie
3 Tomas Francis
4 Mitch Lees
5 Damian Welch
6 Dave Ewers
7 Julian Salvi
8 Don Armand
 
Replacements
16 Elvis Taione
17 Ben Moon
18 Moray Low
19 Ollie Atkins
20 Dave Dennis
21 Jack Maunder
22 Will Hooley
23 Pete Laverick
 
Extras

1 Harry Williams
2 Jack Yeandle
3 Greg Holmes
5 Geoff Parling
7 Ben White
8 Thomas Waldrom
 

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