Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs Premiership Preview

Leicester Tigers host Exeter Chiefs at Welford Road

Leicester Tigers have included Logovi’i Mulipola, Vereniki Goneva and Peter Betham in their starting line up to play Exeter Chiefs at Welford Road in the Aviva Premiership

Mulipola comes into the front row alongside Marcos Ayerza and Harry Thacker in an otherwise unchanged forward pack from the win over London Irish last weekend.

Betham joins Manu Tuilagi at centre, while Goneva returns on the wing.

Fly-half Owen Williams is included among the replacements in his first appearance in a matchday squad since suffering a fractured jaw in the home win over Northampton Saints in early January.

Leicester Tigers three game losing run in Aviva Premiership Rugby ended with their 47- 20 victory at home to London Irish last Sunday.

The Tigers only defeat at Welford Road in the tournament since September 2014 came when Sale were the visitors in round 11.

Exeter Chiefs have won their last two games, at London Irish and at home to Bath, and are the second best away team in Premiership Rugby after Saracens, picking up 22 league points on the road this season.

Exeter won 19-6 when the two clubs met at Sandy Park in November – the only previous occasion that the Chiefs have achieved a Premiership Rugby season double over Leicester was in 2011/12.

Nine points separate the two sides going into this weekend’s tussle at Welford Road and Hepher feels if the Chiefs can knock over Richard Cockerill’s side for a second time this term, it will ensure they keep themselves firmly at arms length from an ever-growing chasing pack.

“It’s certainly up there as one of the toughest fixtures of the season, but it’s also one of the most exciting,” said Exeter Chiefs back coach Ali Hepher.

“It’s where you judge yourself and it’s obviously a great place to go and play in front of some very knowledgable fans. As always it will be a great experience for the guys, but it’s also a great challenge for us and just what we want at this time.

“For large periods against Bath we controlled the game, but we did have our moments where we put ourselves under pressure. That said, we showed strong character to come thought the sticky patches either side of half time and to then be really in control of the game again.”

Fly-half Gareth Steenson did much of the damage for the Chiefs against Bath, landing 16 points on the day to take him through 1,000 Premiership points for the club, whilst Ian Whitten and Kai Horstmann added a try apiece to complete Exeter’s 10th league win of the season.

All three will again figure in an Exeter squad which shows a number of changes in personnel to that which ran out in the all-Westcountry affair. International props Moray Low and Tomas Francis both return to the fray in an all-changed front-row that also includes skipper Jack Yeandle.

Behind them, former Leicester favourite Julian Salvi returns in the back-row at the expense of another ex-Tiger, Thomas Waldrom, who has been given the weekend off by head coach Rob Baxter.

The only other change to the starting XV comes on the wing where the experienced Matt Jess is given the nod over Olly Woodburn in a back three, which will also include full-back Phil Dollman, who will be making his 100th Premiership appearance.

Hepher was quick to praise the contribution of the Welshman, who has been an integral part of the Chiefs make-up since he was signed from the Newport Gwent Dragons in 2008.

“I know Rob counts him as one of his best signings and, like I said, he’s done a fantastic job for us.”

As for the challenge, though, Hepher expects Sunday’s showdown to be a real battle, adding: “Every side at this level is tough, especially away from hime. Leicester have quality players, they’ve probably not got as many international call-ups as perhaps in the past and they are in good form.

“You have to be able to win games in different ways, at different times and in different situations,” continued Hepher. “Sometimes you just have to grind out a win and at others times everything clicks and you look a million dollars. In our case, we’re prepared to do either. We just want to win games and pick up points.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you play, you just have to be effective in what you do. By and large we’ve done that pretty well this season, we’ve picked up ten wins for the season, so we’re in good shape.”

The Bookies have given a 10 point start for this Match – with an offer of up to £200 in Bonus bets.

Match : Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs
Date : Sunday 6 March
Venue : Welford Road,
Kick Off : 3pm
Live on: BT Sport
Match Officials
Referee :Matt Carley (40th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Andrew Jackson & Paul Dix.
TMO: Graham Hughes.

Teams

Leicester Tigers

15 Mathew Tait , 14 Adam Thompstone , 13 Peter Betham , 12 Manu Tuilagi , 11 Vereniki Goneva , 10 Freddie Burns , 9 Jono Kitto , 1 Marcos Ayerza , 2 Harry Thacker , 3 Logovi’i Mulipola , 4 Mike Fitzgerald , 5 Dom Barrow , 6 Tom Croft , 7 Lachlan McCaffrey , 8 Ed Slater (c)

Replacements :16 Leonardo Ghiraldini , 17 Riccardo Brugnara , 18 Fraser Balmain , 19 Graham Kitchener , 20 Mike Williams , 21 Sam Harrison , 22 Owen Williams , 23 Telusa Veainu

Exeter Chiefs

15 Phil Dollman, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Don Armand, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Ollie Atkins, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (capt),1 Moray Low

Replacements :16 Elvis Taione, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Max Bodilly

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