Team News: Baxter Names New Look Side to Face Bath
Rob Baxter has made six changes to his starting line-up for Chiefs’ Round Eight trip to The Recreation Ground to face Bath Rugby on Saturday, December 2.
The Chiefs Director of Rugby makes two changes to his backline and four to his pack as last weekend’s try scorer Josh Iosefa-Scott starts and Stu Towsend makes his first start of the season having returned from injury in the home clash against Gloucester.
Nika Abuladze starts at loosehead with centurion Alec Hepburn on the bench. Player of the match last week, Jacques Vermeulen retains his place in the back row with Ethan Roots as they are joined by Greg Fisilau at eight. Jack Yeandle, captain Dafydd Jenkins and Lewis Pearson round out the pack.
Harvey Skinner pairs up with Townsend from fly half while the developing partnership of Joe Hawkins and Henry Slade remains in the centre. Ben Hammersley, Olly Woodburn and Tommy Wyatt then round out the backline.
Baxter was impressed with his side’s result against Newcastle, but he says the Chiefs are well aware of the challenges that remain to be confronted throughout the remainder of the season – not least this weekend’s clash with fourth place, Bath.
“We got a first away win three weeks into the away calendar, so I’m delighted for the guys. I thought they stuck to the game plan and the task exceptionally well. And that allowed us to come away with some important points and keeps the league position exciting for us.”
“We’re aware we’ve got challenges ahead though. We’re not kidding ourselves – we’re not sitting here thinking ‘this is incredible, here we go, we’re on a roll’ – we know we’ve got to work exceptionally hard every week. We’ve got to stick to plans and processes each week.”
“What a fantastic round in the Premiership we have this week – all the top six teams are going to play each other. There’s going to be some movement in that top six, that’s for certain.”
“I think, for us, going to Bath is a really good challenge. It’s the next step we probably need to go after. Obviously, Bath have had a strong start and they’ve got a bigger group of more established players in their squad. I think a lot of the lessons we took into the Newcastle game are relevant this week as well.”
“Bath play a high-pressure game. They know how to keep you out of their 22 and they know how they want their entries into your 22. The battle around that middle third of the pitch is going to be crucial again. We’re having some good practice at that area and I’m expecting us to be strong in that area again.”
On the bench Max Norey, Hepburn and Ehren Painter form the replacement front row. Rusi Tuima and Aidon Davis then cover the remainder of the pack. For the backs, Niall Armstrong returns to the matchday side with Rory O’Loughlin and fan-favourite Ollie Devoto also named.
Chiefs secured a first Gallagher Premiership away win of the season last weekend at Kingston Park and will look to maintain the positives of that performance for a tough trip to The Rec as Bath have started the 2023/24 season in impressive form. The hosts will have some confidence coming into the encounter having gotten the better of Baxter’s men in this season’s Premiership Rugby Cup – a result the Exeter men will be looking to overturn.
15 Tommy Wyatt
14 Olly Woodburn
13 Henry Slade
12 Joe Hawkins
11 Ben Hammersley
10 Harvey Skinner
9 Stu Townsend
1 Nika Abuladze
2 Jack Yeandle
3 Josh Iosefa-Scott
4 Dafydd Jenkins (c)
5 Lewis Pearson
6 Ethan Roots
7 Jacques Vermeulen
8 Greg Fisilau
16 Max Norey
17 Alec Hepburn
18 Ehren Painter
19 Rusi Tuima
20 Aidon Davis
21 Niall Armstrong
22 Ollie Devoto
23 Rory O’Loughlin