ROB Baxter has named an unchanged starting line-up for Chiefs’ Round Seven trip up north to take on Newcastle Falcons on Sunday (3pm).
Growing with confidence, centre Joe Hawkins retains his place in the line-up alongside Henry Slade having been praised by Baxter earlier in the week – alongside fellow Welshman Dafydd Jenkins – for his maturity and development on the rugby field.
Jenkins retains the matchday captaincy with club captain Jack Yeandle starting alongside experienced scrummagers Scott Sio and Ehren Painter in the front row.
On the bench, Max Norey and veteran Alec Hepburn return to the matchday fold, having impressed in a Monday night friendly against Bristol Bears recently. Tom Hendrickson also returns to the squad as Stu Townsend retains his bench spot.
Baxter doesn’t believe it will be an easy trip for his players as he acknowledges the work their opposition have done to pull together as a team unit in the hunt for progress this season.
“Teams grow with time together – we’ve seen that for ourselves – as it gives you time to learn and develop, and that’s what I think you’re starting to see with Newcastle," he said.
“They’ll be a little disappointed that they haven’t gotten more out of their games, and I think that’s the key for us. We have to go at them flat out, and we’re going to have to fight for everything.
“The fact they haven’t won a game isn’t a pressure release for us because we haven’t won away from home. We go into this game, really, 0-0. The pressures on both teams to try and change those kinds of results are rather similar. We know we need to change it if we want to stay competitive in the league and they know they need to change it if they want to begin climbing the league.
“I think we’ve got to use that as a genuine motivation – that we’ve still got something to tick off as a squad this season, and that’s what we’re going to try to achieve.”
Chiefs reestablished their standing in the top four last weekend, moving to third in the table following an 80th-minute penalty from Slade which secured a one-point win against Gloucester at Sandy Park.
Following on from his first start of the season last weekend, Aidon Davis’ commendable work-rate earns him a second start in a barnstorming back row alongside Ethan Roots and Jacques Vermeulen.
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), Jacques Vermeulen, Ethan Roots, Aidon Davis. Replacements: Max Norey, Alec Hepburn, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Lewis Pearson, Ross Vintcent, Stu Townsend, Will Haydon-Wood, Tom Hendrickson.
Referee: Christophe Ridley.