Big Match Preview: Wasps v Exeter Chiefs in Gallagher Premiership Rugby
Two titans of Gallagher Premiership Rugby have been thrown together in Round Two as Exeter Chiefs roll into Coventry to face Wasps.
The two sides have tussled in the top four for the last three seasons, the benchmark still set by 2017’s exhilarating final that saw the Chiefs triumph in extra time.
On Saturday Directors of Rugby Dai Young and Rob Baxter lead their teams into battle once again – here’s a look at the key details ahead of the highly-anticipated clash.
What’s at stake
The Gallagher Premiership season might be in its formative stages, but the weekend’s winner will glean a huge psychological boost – knowing they have beaten one of the best.
Stability has once again been the watchword for Exeter, whose winning formula under Baxter endures, although will only be sustained by consistent results.
Sealing the spoils on home soil would be a crucial, early blow for Wasps in their bid to break the duopoly at the top of the table.
Form so far
Both Wasps and Exeter got their seasons off to a winning start in Round One of the Gallagher Premiership.
Young’s side edged out Worcester Warriors 21-20 in their first assignment, tries from Joe Launchbury and Tommy Taylor just about enough to survive a Sixways scare.
It was a less fraught affair for Exeter, who ran in six tries to beat Leicester Tigers 40-6.
The Chiefs are a dominant force in this fixture, having won 12 of their 18 top-flight meetings.
Wasps have claimed victory over the Chiefs five times, while few will forget the thrilling 35-35 draw shared in 2017.
Wasps inflicted a third straight defeat on Exeter on their last rendezvous in February, claiming 13-7 victory from a hard-fought encounter.
Marcus Watson’s try was the only score of a frantic first-half in the West Midlands.
Despite Luke Cowan-Dickie’s second-half score and a yellow card for Wasps’ Ashley Johnson, a turnaround from 7-0 down at half-time proved too tough a task for Exeter.
Exeter’s only off-season move saw their backline further strengthened with the arrival of Wales international Alex Cuthbert from Cardiff Blues.
Cuthbert, a former Lions tourist, will add competition out wide with the likes of Santiago Cordero, Jack Nowell and Olly Woodburn already vying for supremacy.
Wasps made a number of eye-catching moves, with the introduction of tenacious Hurricanes flanker Brad Shields to Gallagher Premiership Rugby whipping up plenty of excitement.
The signings of Kieran Brookes from Northampton Saints and Nizaam Carr from Stormers add further ballast to their pack, with Lima Sopoaga tasked with replacing Danny Cipriani.
All-action Don Armand’s cult hero status at Sandy Park is undisputed and he will continue to play a huge part in Exeter’s title ambitions this term.
11 tries last season was an outstanding return for a flanker, leading to his nomination for Premiership Player of the Year.
As third-highest ever try scorer in Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Christian Wade is never far from the whitewash.
With Willie le Roux away on international duty, the continued clinical edge provided by the winger will be all the more important in one of the biggest games of their season.