ROB Baxter has made five changes to his starting line-up for Exeter Chiefs’ Round Six derby-day clash with Gloucester on Sunday (3pm).
In a familiar move, the Chiefs' director of rugby rotates his entire front row, while young Welsh international Dafydd Jenkins retains his spot in the starting line-up and the captaincy.
Elsewhere in the pack, Aidon Davis makes his first start of the season in the back row as Ross Vintcent moves to the bench to make way for the South African. Man of the match the last time out at home, Rus Tuima, comes in at lock, with Lewis Pearson dropping down to the replacements.
Included in the matchday squad is scrum-half Stu Townsend – named on the bench, and he could make his first appearance of the season following illness. He replaces the suspended Niall Armstrong.
Baxter is aware of the intent the Cherry and Whites will likely arrive in Exeter with following on from a disappointing result against Bath last weekend, who they lost 45-27 at home, having led 20-10 at half-time.
However, he is looking forward to the atmosphere the derby game will bring to the crowd.
“I think Gloucester will be disappointed with last week as they really had the momentum of the game at half-time, and they almost looked like the team who were ready to cut loose. They will be smarting from it a little and will be wanting to respond," he said.
“The great thing when we play Gloucester is they bring a lot of travelling support, which’ll be a great atmosphere at Sandy Park.
“Every game we’ve played so far has been a challenge in different ways and this will be another one that we have the chance to learn from.
"They’re very good in counter attack – they’re prepared to go wide-to-wide in the backs and they’ve got great pace there. And obviously they’ve had a lot of success in recent years around their maul.”
Chiefs slipped to fifth in the league table following last Sunday’s 34-19 defeat at Northampton Saints.
However, the squad will look to maintain the Sandy Park fortress – where they haven’t lost a game since October 2022.
Gloucester director of rugby George Skivington has made two changes to the starting XV that was defeated by rivals Bath, both in the back line.
Scrum-half Micky Young is set for his first Gloucester start since signing for the Cherry & Whites a fortnight ago. Young replaces Italian international Stephen Varney, and joins George Barton at halfback.
There is one enforced change in the back three after Jonny May's citing and subsequent three-match ban after the Bath fixture. He's replaced by Louis Rees-Zammit on the wing.
Exeter Chiefs: Tommy Wyatt, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Henry Slade, Joe Hawkins, Ben Hammersley, Harvey Skinner, Tom Cairns, Scott Sio, Jack Yeandle, Ehren Painter, Rusi Tuima, Dafydd Jenkins (capt), Ethan Roots, Jacques Vermeulen, Aidon Davis. Replacements: Dan Frost, Nika Abuladze, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Lewis Pearson, Ross Vintcent, Stu Townsend, Will Haydon-Wood, Olly Woodburn.
Gloucester: Santi Carreras, Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris, Seb Atkinson, Ollie Thorley, George Barton, Micky Young, Mayco Vivas, George McGuigan, Fraser Balmain, Freddie Clarke, Matias Alemanno, Albert Tuisue, Lewis Ludlow (capt), Jack Clement. Replacements: Santi Socino, Harry Elrington, Ciaran Knight, Arthur Clark, Freddie Thomas, Stephen Varney, Mark Atkinson, Louis Hillman-Cooper.
Referee: Ian Tempest.