ROB Baxter has made six changes to the Premiership leaders' starting line-up for a Round Five trip to the Cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens to take on Northampton Saints on Sunday (3pm), writes Erin McRitchie.
Exeter Chiefs' director of rugby has rotated his entire front row for a second week running as well as bringing Welsh international Dafydd Jenkins into the starting line-up for the first time this season to captain the side.
After a strong first Gallagher Premiership start last weekend at Sandy Park, Ross Vintcent keeps his place at number eight for a second week, while fellow youngster Ben Hammersley rotates back into the side on the wing for Olly Woodburn in a back division that also sees Wales centre Joe Hawkins come in for Tom Hendrickson.
October’s RPA ’15 Under 23’ Player of the Month Immanuel Feyi-Waboso is on the other wing for Chiefs.
"Saints very much back their attacking game, you can’t run away from that. Over the last couple of years there never seems to have been a game where they’re not capable of scoring tries. And that obviously creates pressure in itself, because it doesn’t matter whether you’ve got them in a close game or you feel like you’re pulling away – you always know they’ve got a try-scoring ability and they’ll back themselves to get back to that," said Baxter.
“Outside of that, currently I think they’ve got one of the highest performing set pieces in the Premiership as well and that gives you a great foundation – as we’ve seen in the last four games.
“And so, I think they’ll challenge us in a lot of similar ways that we’ll look to challenge them. I would like to think it could be one of those games, that afterwards there could be a lot of really positive stories about the quality of the game – with two teams trying to be positive at the set piece and positive about how they play rugby.”
England internationals Courtney Lawes and Alex Mitchell return to face Exeter after World Cup duty.
Fraser Dingwall captains the side from Saints’ midfield, with Tommy Freeman shifting from the wing to start at outside centre.
Mitchell joins fly-half Fin Smith in Saints’ half-backs, while James Ramm returns from injury to start on the wing alongside Tom Seabrook, with in-form George Hendy moving to full-back.
Paul Hill provides the only change to Saints’ front row, as the tight-head packs down alongside loose-head Alex Waller and hooker Curtis Langdon; and Alex Moon is partnered by Chunya Munga in Saints’ engine room.
Lawes makes his return in Northampton’s back row to join Angus Scott-Young and No.8 Sam Graham there, with club captain Lewis Ludlam taking a week of mandatory rest following the World Cup.
Northampton: George Hendy, Tom Seabrook, Tommy Freeman, Fraser Dingwall (capt), James Ramm, Fin Smith, Alex Mitchell, Alex Waller, Curtis Langdon, Paul Hill, Alex Moon, Chunya Munga, Courtney Lawes, Angus Scott-Young, Sam Graham. Replacements: Sam Matavesi, Ethan Waller, Trevor Davison, Alex Coles, Tom Pearson, Tom James, Rory Hutchinson, Tom Litchfield.
Exeter Chiefs: Tommy Wyatt, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Henry Slade, Joe Hawkins, Ben Hammersley, Harvey Skinner, Tom Cairns, Nika Abuladze, Dan Frost, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Dafydd Jenkins (capt), Lewis Pearson, Ethan Roots, Jacques Vermeulen, Ross Vintcent. Replacements: Jack Yeandle, Scott Sio, Ehren Painter, Rusi Tuima, Aidon Davis, Niall Armstrong, Will Haydon-Wood, Tom Hendrickson.