Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons Premiership Preview

Exeter Chiefs host Newcastle Falcons at Sandy Park

Exeter Chiefs Boss Rob Baxter has included Henry Slade for the first time since December for this weekend’s Aviva Premiership match against Newcastle Falcons at Sandy Park.

The England international has not figured for the Devon club since breaking his leg and damaging ankle ligaments in Exeter’s impressive away win at Wasps.

However, the 22-year-old playmaker has worked tirelessly to return to full fitness and Baxter has wasted little time in recalling the Plymouth-born back to his starting line-up.

Slade is one of seven changes the Chiefs have made to their side that went down 31-27 at Leicester Tigers last Sunday. He comes into a back division that includes Will Chudley returning at scrum-half and Olly Woodburn coming in on the right wing.

Up front, a new-look front-row is held together by skipper Jack Yeandle, who will have Ben Moon and Harry Williams either side of him; lock Lewis Stevenson makes his first start since re-joining the club last month and Thomas Waldrom is back at No.8 having been rested for last weekend’s trip to his former club.

With Slade back and Dave Ewers and Luke Cowan-Dickie having also returned to competitive action recently, Baxter said this week that the walking wounded list at Sandy Park is easing all the time and he hopes to have both Damian Welch and Mitch Lees back in the fray in the not too distant future.

“They [Newcastle] have a bit more confidence now and because they have picked up some wins and because of how things have gone with London Irish dropping off the bottom a bit, they can come here with not too much to lose and go after the game and that makes it dangerous,” said Baxter ahead of the match.

“Again, we haven’t talked about that as a scenario because we want to make it about Exeter and I think the reason our home form is improving all the time is because we make it about ourselves. The lads turn up in the right frame of mind to put in a big performance.

“It is not a mystery why that happens, the players make it happen and that is what we have to do this weekend.”

That said, focus this week at Sandy Park has been around his own side and making sure they deliver as they look to keep themselves firmly in the play-off picture at the top end of the table.

“You hate to talk about things too far in advance, but the truth is that our home form has been good. I have said pretty much every week that our home form will be the foundations for everything we achieve,” continued Baxter.

“If we want to be first or second in the Premiership you have to expect to win your home games at this stage of the season.

“They are going to be huge fixtures for us and you would like to think out of a block of three home games, we will get some points and we are going to have to.

“When you look at the teams around us, the chasing pack is pretty tight, there is a lot of them and the points is narrowing up, but home wins will keep that gap where it needs to be.”

Exeter Chiefs have scored more tries than any other side in Aviva Premriship Rugby this season and have only once failed to secure a league point from a match in the competition since April 2014.

Newcastle Falcons have slipped to successive defeats, at Gloucester and at home to Worcester.

Falcons, along with London Irish are the only side yet to have won on the road in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season.

The two clubs have met on nine previous occasions in Premiership Rugby with Newcastle’s only victory being 29-24 at Kingston Park in October 2014.

The Falcons have been defeated in all six previous visits to Sandy Park in all tournaments.

Newcastle Falcons will welcome back Sinoti Sinoti and Mike Delany to their starting XV which has a number of changes across the team.

Having enjoyed a 23 minute spell against Gloucester in round 14, Sinoti makes his first Falcons start of the season since the opening game against the same opposition back in October while Delany’s start is his first involvement since the away game against Sale in November.

The Kiwi fly half was forced from the field with a knee injury 18 minutes into that fixture, but is now fully recovered and ready to build on an impressive start to his Falcons career, that saw him score 37 points in five games.

Away from the returnee’s, tight head prop Mike Cusack makes his first start for the club, since joining from Glasgow Warriors on loan and will pack down alongside Alex Rogers and George McGuigan.

Behind the front row, former England international Mourtiz Botha and Calum Green form up in the second, while Mark Wilson drops back onto the blindside flank.

He joins Will Welch and Nili Latu in the back row, with the club captain returning to the openside and the former Tonga captain switching to number eight.

Joining Sinoti in a refreshed back line, Giamba Venditti takes to the right wing as Alex Tait moves to full back and Juan Pablo Socino takes over the inside centre position.

Chris Harris retains the number 13 shirt outside the Argentine international, while Sonatane Takulua starts at scrum half.

On the replacements bench, the Falcons have opted for experienced heads as the look to challenge the Chiefs, with Scott Lawson, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Ally Hogg and Andy Goode all bringing considerable knowledge from club and international level.

They are joined by further experience in the shape of Richard Mayhew and Michael Young while Ben Harris and Tom Penny earn chances for further Aviva Premiership action in the case of the young back and a first league appearance in the case of the Huddersfield born prop.

The Bookies have given Newcastle Falcons a 17 point start for this Match – with an offer of up to £200 in Bonus bets.

Match : Exeter Chiefs v Newcastle Falcons
Date : Saturday 12 March
Venue : Sandy Park,
Kick Off : 3pm
Live on: N.A
Match Officials
Referee : Craig Maxwell-Keys(14th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell & Kelvin Stewart.
TMO: David Rose.

Teams

Exeter Chiefs

15 Phil Dollman , 14 Olly Woodburn , 13 Henry Slade , 12 Sam Hill , 11 Ian Whitten , 10 Gareth Steenson , 9 Will Chudley , 1 Ben Moon , 2 Jack Yeandle (capt) , 3 Harry Williams , 4 Lewis Stevenson , 5 Geoff Parling , 6 Don Armand , 7 Julian Salvi , 8 Thomas Waldrom

Replacements : 16 Elvis Taione , 17 Alec Hepburn , 18 Carl Rimmer , 19 Ollie Atkins , 20 Dave Ewers , 21 Dave Lewis , 22 Will Hooley , 23 Max Bodilly

Newcastle Falcons

15 Alex Tait, 14 Giamba Venditti, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 1 Alex Rogers, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Mike Cusack, 4 Mouritz Botha, 5 Callum Green, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch, 8 Nili Latu

Replacements : 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 19 Richard Mayhew, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Michael Young, 22 Andy Goode, 23 Tom Penny

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