ROB Baxter has made five changes to his starting line-up for Bristol Bears’ visit to Sandy Park on Sunday as his full front row rotate places (3pm), writes Erin McRitchie.
The Chiefs 'director of rugby has selected an experienced front row as Scott Sio starts at loose-head, Ehren Painter at tight-head and Jack Yeandle captaining the side from hooker.
After impressing in the A-League friendly earlier in the week, Ross Vintcent is rewarded with a start at number eight in place of Greg Fisilau, while club stalwart Olly Woodburn returns to Premiership action for the first time this season, having gained valuable minutes in the friendly.
Baxter and his coaching staff have prepared their squad for the hard-hitting, attritional encounter as Bristol Bears have bolstered their game since the two sides met in the Premiership Rugby Cup.
“Bristol have had a very good start to the Premiership season. They’ll be pleased in a lot of ways with where they are at the moment. They’ll be frustrated with that loss to Harlequins because they almost had the game wrapped up before it slipped away with one of the last kicks of the game," said Baxter.
“They’ll be pleased with how they’ve gone. They’ve created a good intensity and have certainly stepped things up since the Premiership Rugby Cup, as we have.
“They’ll be a big challenge for us. They’ve got try-scoring threats across the field and they know some areas of our game that they’ve worked on that they defend very well. They’re scoring a lot of points – they’re never out of games, always a dangerous team.”
Chiefs have started the season on a strong footing, scoring 122 points in the opening three rounds – a tally they will look to add to on Sunday. This weekend will be an opportunity to secure second in the table as Bristol Bears loom in third place on points difference.
Also included in the starting XV is Tommy Wyatt remaining in the full-back berth he looked comfortable in last week following the unfortunate injury to Josh Hodge.
Ethan Roots and Jacques Vermeulen accompany Vintcent, ensuring there is plenty of barnstorming power to come up against the equally explosive Bears back row.
Wales international forward Christ Tshiunza broke a bone in his foot in Exeter's 43-0 win over Sale Sharks last Saturday and faces a spell on the sidelines.
Sam Grahamslaw will make his Premiership debut for the Bears. The former Jersey Reds loose-head lines up in a new-look front row from the round three defeat to Harlequins, with Will Capon and George Kloska also starting as Pat Lam makes five changes.
James Dun switches to blindside with former Chief Josh Caulfield coming into the second row and captain Fitz Harding moving to openside. Kieran Marmion gets the nod at scrum-half, with Harry Randall moving to the bench.
Exeter: T Wyatt, I Feyi-Waboso, H Slade, T Hendrickson, O Woodburn, H Skinner, T Cairns, S Sio, J Yeandle, E Painter, R Tuima, L Peaosn, E Roots, J Vermeulen, R Vintcent. Replacements: D Frost, N Abuladze, J Iosefa-Scott, D Jenkins, A Davis, N Armstrong W Haydon-Wood, J Hawkins.
Bristol: R Lane, N Heward, V Vakatawa, BJ Van Rensburg, G Ibitoye, C Sheedy, K Marmion, S Grahamslaw, W Capon, G Kloska, J Caulfield, J Batley, J Dun, F Harding (capt), M Bradbury. Replacements: H Thacker, J Woolmore, M Lahiff, E Holmes, D Thomas, H Randall, J Williams, P O'Conor.