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Exeter Chiefs recall four internationals for trip to Bath

By Kim Ekin

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Exeter Chiefs have recalled four internationals to Gallagher Premiership duty as they bid to heap more misery on Bath this weekend.

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Stuart Hogg, Henry Slade, Sam Simmonds and Sam Skinner all return to the starting XV for the trip up the M5.

The club say that they are “acutely aware that although they are positioned fourth in the standings, a failure to make the most of these upcoming weeks could well have an impact on their seasonal aspirations.”

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“The boys are aware, they’re not daft, they know we’re kind of clinging onto fourth spot at the moment,” Director of Rugby Rob Baxter said. “We’re desperate to keep accruing those Premiership points that will keep us on track.

“For us, this is a really important time of the year and it feels like we now have to put our foot down if we want to be involved in those big games at the end of the season. We’re okay where we are, but equally we know we need to push on. We’ve had some frustratingly tight losses, plus a poor loss against London Irish.

“Equally, we’ve had some good away wins at places like Sale, Wasps and Gloucester, but it’s finding that consistency. Looking to Friday, this is probably the last fixture I would have liked to have. With Bath not having won a game, they can throw everything at us. By that I mean, it’s not a free hit – because Premiership games aren’t like that – but they are a team who have had a couple of weeks off and now they can come into this game knowing they are 80 minutes away from achieving their biggest celebration of the season.

“What we have to do as a club is not only match that fight, but put our own mark on the game and really looking to impose ourselves on Bath.”

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“If people remember, Bath were the last team in the Premiership for us to beat,” said Baxter. “Since then, we’ve gone pretty well against them. That said, if you saw their last performance against Leicester, they will have been disappointed not to have got more from that game.

“Like with any Premiership game, we know it we don’t turn up on Friday night then we’re going to have issues and that’s the message I’ve been telling the guys all this week. We’ve got to be willing to fight for anything and everything throughout.

“As I said, this is a nice challenge for us because if you want big seasons and you want to win things, you should be wanting to knock challenges like this over. The bigger and better those challenges are, the bigger and better team you will be.”

The return of Tom O’Flaherty, Slade, and Hogg, the latter of whom became Scotland’s all-time leading try-scorer in their triumph over Japan at Murrayfield, have boosted the back division.

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Irishman Ian Whitten, who has been rewarded by Baxter for two outstanding performances in recent Premiership Rugby Cup games against Bristol Bears and Gloucester, will also start tomorrow.

“I thought Whitts really stood out this past two weeks,” said Baxter. “He’s a guy who has been out of the first team, but he went out in those games and wanted to fight and challenge for everything that was going on. As a coach, I like that, and it’s those characteristics that you build a side and a club around. As a senior guy, he showed all those youngsters exactly what we expect from an Exeter Chiefs player.”

EXETER CHIEFS:
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Jack Nowell
13 Henry Slade
12 Ian Whitten
11 Tom O’Flaherty
10 Harvey Skinner
9 Jack Maunder
1 Alec Hepburn
2 Jack Yeandle (capt)
3 Josh Iosefa-Scott
4 Sam Skinner
5 Sean Lonsdale
6 Dave Ewers
7 Jannes Kirsten
8 Sam Simmonds

REPLACEMENTS:
16 Jack Innard
17 Ben Moon
18 Harry Williams
19 Don Armand
20 Richard Capstick
21 Sam Maunder
22 Joe Simmonds
23 Tom Hendrickson

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Exeter Chiefs recall four internationals for trip to Bath

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