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Exeter change two for Champions Cup final, recall fit-again Nowell

(Photo by Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images)

Rob Baxter has made two changes to his Exeter side to face Racing in Saturday’s Champions Cup final following their Premiership semi-final win last Saturday over Bath.

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Up front, Baxter sticks with an unchanged pack from that which saw off Bath 35-6, but behind there are two changes with Ian Whitten – on his 200th Premiership and Champions Cup appearance for the club – given the nod in midfield over Ollie Devoto, while Jack Nowell comes in on the wing for Olly Woodburn.

England winger Nowell, 27, wasn’t included in the league semi-final selection due to a foot injury sustained in the European semi-final against Toulouse, his place going to Woodburn.

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Exeter’s Rob Baxter sets the scene ahead of this Saturday’s Champions Cup final

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Exeter’s Rob Baxter sets the scene ahead of this Saturday’s Champions Cup final

But Baxter hinted at Wednesday’s pre-Champions Cup final media conference that Nowell was in his thoughts to start for Exeter despite not playing since September 26.

“We take a long time on selection and we look at all of those things. You look at Jack, how he played before he picked up that foot injury late on against Toulouse, how he played against Northampton when he scored a fantastic try in that game, how he has played in other big games for us,” Baxter explained.

“I don’t think I have seen a winger play a better game in the Premiership final than Jack Nowell played last season, so you look at that and you know what he’s capable of doing. But at the same time, we have to watch him train and assess it carefully to make sure he is at the level to be able to perform like that.

“At the same time, we have to be able to take into account the performances of Tom O’Flaherty, who has been very consistent over an extended period of time, and Olly Woodburn, who came back and had a great game in the (league) semi-final after a little period out with an injury.”

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EXETER (vs Racing, Saturday)
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Jack Nowell
13 Henry Slade
12 Ian Whitten
11 Tom O’Flaherty
10 Joe Simmonds (capt)
9 Jack Maunder
1 Alec Hepburn
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie
3 Harry Williams
4 Jonny Gray
5 Jonny Hill
6 Dave Ewers
7 Jacques Vermeulen
8 Sam Simmonds

Replacements
16 Jack Yeandle
17 Ben Moon
18 Tomas Francis
19 Sam Skinner
20 Jannes Kirsten
21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
22 Gareth Steenson
23 Ollie Devoto

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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J
Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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FEATURE Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink
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