Exeter have overhauled their team for Friday’s Gallagher Premiership trip to Gloucester as they rest their big guns in anticipation of the imminent resumption of their European title defence.
Director of rugby Rob Baxter has made 11 changes for the Kingsholm showdown in advance of the Chiefs’ Heineken Champions Cup last-16 appointment with Lyon eight days later.
Exeter are seven points adrift of Premiership leaders Bristol, which is the same margin between them and fourth-placed Sale, and Baxter knows there is little margin for error.
“It’s an interesting period. The only way I’ll know if we have got things right will be in two weeks’ time and if we have made it through in the Champions Cup and we are still where we want to be in the Premiership,” Baxter said.
“It’s a challenging period for us. We have the challenge of reintegrating those international boys who have been away at the Six Nations back into the squad.
“We also have to look after those guys who have played a lot of game time in their absence, as well as those who have got bumps and bruises.
“If we get it right, then we will have a European quarter-final, which again will be a huge game, after which we roll into two massive matches in the Premiership against Wasps and Bristol.
“It’s an exciting time and an opportunity for some players to do some special things, so it will be interesting to see who takes it.”
Eleventh-placed Gloucester have named international wings Jonny May and Louis Rees-Zammit in their starting XV less than a week after they finished their Six Nations campaigns with England and Wales respectively.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Josh Hodge, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Dan John, 12 Corey Baldwin, 11 Facundo Cordero, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; 1 James Kenny, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 3 Marcus Street, 4 Sean Lonsdale, 5 Tom Price, 6 Don Armand, 7 Richard Capstick, 8 Rus Tuima
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Danny Southworth, 18 Alfie Petch, 19 Will Witty, 20 Charlie Wright, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Arthur Relton, 23 James Short.
Gloucester: 15 Santiago Carreras, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Barton, 9 Willi Heinz; 1 Val Rapava-Ruskin, 2 Henry Walker, 3 Fraser Balmain, 4 Ed Slater, 5 Matias Alemanno, 6 Jordy Reid, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 8 Ruan Ackermann.
Replacements: 16 Santiago Socino, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Freddie Clarke, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Jack Clement, 22 Charlie Chapman, 23 Charlie Sharples.
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