Exeter Chiefs will get their first taste of the new European Rugby Champions Cup when they visit the Liberty Stadium on Sunday and Head Coach, Rob Baxter, says they are relishing the challenge.
- Exeter will make their first ever visit to the Liberty Stadium this weekend, for their first ever game in the new ERCC
- They currently sit second in the Aviva Premiership and have won their last three games, defeating Leicester last time out
- The two teams have previously met on three occasions, all in the LV= Cup, all at Exeter, and all won by the Chiefs
- Kick-off on Sunday is at 5.30pm.
It’s some two years since Exeter last played in Europe’s elite competition, in the old Heineken Cup, and their eagerly anticipated involvement in the new European Rugby Champions Cup begins with a trio to Ospreylia.
They come into the game on the back of three successive wins that have lifted them to second in the Aviva Premiership, the last of them an impressive victory over Leicester Tigers, and Baxter has urged his charges to take that form into Europe.
Rob Baxter (L) and Steve Tandy at the ERCC launch event in London last week.
“I like the fact we are going into a competition where we can show the best of ourselves, put others under pressure and just go out and show what we are all about” he said.
“Personally, I really like that it’s do or die, all or nothing, and that we can go after it as hard as we can. Going away to Ospreys is a great start for us, they are the team who should be really under pressure, it’s a home game for them and next week they go to Clermont, so that’s a tough start for them. However, if we can start well, show our qualities and put them under pressure, it should be an interesting game up there.”
The two teams have met previously on three occasions, all in the LV= Cup and all at Exeter’s Sandy Park, so it will be the Chiefs first time at the Liberty. Despite the contrasting fortunes so far this season, Baxter says that he is expecting the Ospreys to provide difficult opposition.
“Personnel wise they will be different, as will their focus. In the past regional sides build themselves up for this period, whereas it’s slightly different in the Premiership as you know you have to get off to a flyer and do well, otherwise you could end up in the relegation zone or out of the league before it starts.
“For us, it’s more about a shift of focus rather than a build for these games. We have already built to be very good in the early rounds of the Premiership, so now we have to shift our focus to see if we can accelerate and intensify into these two European games.”
Baxter sticks with an unchanged starting pack for the game, whilst behind Sam Hill comes into the centre in place of Ian Whitten and Matt Jess is promoted from the bench to the wing, meaning England international Jack Nowell takes over at full-back. On the bench, Tom Johnson is included in the first team squad for the first time this campaign, as is Italian newcomer Michele Campagnaro, who himself is no stranger to the competition having played for Benetton Treviso in the past.
CHIEFS SIDE TO FACE OSPREYS
15 Jack Nowell
14 Matt Jess
13 Henry Slade
12 Sam Hill
11 James Short
10 Gareth Steenson (capt)
9 Will Chudley
1 Alec Hepburn
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie
3 Tomas Francis
4 Mitch Lees
5 Damian Welch
6 Dave Ewers
7 Julian Salvi
8 Don Armand
16 Jack Yeandle
17 Carl Rimmer
18 Moray Low
19 Ollie Atkins
20 Tom Johnson
21 Dave Lewis
22 Ian Whitten
23 Michele Campagnaro