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Exeter and Sale make four changes each, with good news for Simmonds and Tuilagi

By Liam Heagney

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Exeter and Sale have each made four changes to their respective XVs as they prepare to fight it out this Saturday for the right to stage a home Gallagher Premiership semi-final next weekend. There is also a positive update regarding Lions pick Sam Simmonds as he starts for the Chiefs after shaking off last weekend’s ankle injury scare.  

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For Exeter, Alec Hepburn and Dave Ewers come into the pack in place of Ben Moon and Sean Lonsdale, while Ollie Devoto returns in the centre ahead of Ian Whitten and Alex Cuthbert gets the nod on the right wing over Facundo Cordero.

Exeter boss Rob Baxter also reported that forwards Tomas Francis and Jonny Gray were closer to a return, as was Jack Nowell who returned to full training this week following a knee injury.

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The second-place Chiefs sit three points behind leader Bristol but a bonus-point win for Sale, coupled with Exeter getting no match points, would see Alex Sanderson’s third-place Sharks jump ahead of them on the table and earn a home semi-final.

There was speculation that Sale could rest up the majority of their frontline players with a view to settling for an away semi-final – most likely back at Sandy Park as Bristol are tipped to beat London Irish – but Sanderson has selected a strong them that includes the return of midfielder Manu Tuilagi and openside Tom Curry at the expense of Rob du Preez and Ben Curry. 

The other two changes are Arron Reed for Marland Yarde on the wing and Cobus Wiese for Josh Beaumont at lock. Saturday will be Tuilagi’s first start for Sale since he suffered his achilles injury last September. He appeared off the bench in last month’s win over Bristol but his planned start versus Harlequins last weekend was scuppered when he was identified as a close contact of a club medic who tested positive.   

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EXETER: 15. Stuart Hogg; 14. Alex Cuthbert, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Ollie Devoto, 11. Tom O’Flaherty; 10. Joe Simmonds (capt) 9. Jack Maunder; 1. Alec Hepburn, 2. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3. Harry Williams, 4. Sam Skinner, 5. Jonny Hill, 6. Dave Ewers, 7. Jannes Kirsten, 8. Sam Simmonds. Reps: 16. Jack Yeandle, 17. Ben Moon, 18. Marcus Street, 19. Sean Lonsdale, 20. Richard Capstick, 21. Stu Townsend, 22. Harvey Skinner, 23. Ian Whitten.

SALE: 15. Simon Hammersley; 14. Byron McGuigan, 13. Sam James, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Arron Reed; 10. AJ MacGinty, 9. Faf de Klerk; 1. Ross Harrison, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Cameron Neild, 7. Tom Curry (capt) 8. Daniel du Preez. Reps: 16. Curtis Langdon, 17. Bevan Rodd, 18. Will-Griff John, 19. James Phillips, 20. Ben Curry, 21. Will Cliff, 22. Robert du Preez, 23. Rohan Janse van Rensburg. 

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Exeter and Sale make four changes each, with good news for Simmonds and Tuilagi

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