Rob Baxter has named his Exeter side to host Leicester at Sandy Park when the Gallagher Premiership league leaders resume their 2019/20 campaign on Saturday.

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The Chiefs have added eight new faces since their last fixture but of all the newcomers to arrive, only Scottish international Jonny Gray is afforded a starting role. He will debut in the second row alongside Jonny Hill, while fellow newcomer and compatriot, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, is named among the replacements.

Elsewhere, the Premiership line-up has a familiar feel with England duo Ollie Devoto and Henry Slade in the Exeter midfield, Scottish captain Stuart Hogg at full-back, while Joe Simmonds skippers the side from fly-half.

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In the pack, it’s an all-England front row of Alec Hepburn, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Harry Williams, while Sam Simmonds’ guile at No8 will be complemented with the African might of Dave Ewers and Jannes Kirsten.

On the bench, there is the welcome sight of Tomas Francis. The Welsh prop has not played since severely damaging his shoulder in Wales’ World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa back October last year.

Exeter boss Baxter said ahead of the Premiership restart: “I hope a team will never have to win a season like we have had this year – and I hope we don’t have another extended period away from rugby like we have had. Some guys here will have the experience of playing a Premiership game in front of zero crowd.

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“Obviously, you don’t want that to happen again, but it’s still an experience you can say you have had, you have triumphed over and something you can ultimately embrace.?? People are thinking it will be hugely different, but I don’t see it that way. Here we are in August, yet every other year we would play a pre-season game in August and run into the season in September.

“September is only two weeks’ away and that is when we will play the majority of our games. It’s more when we get into October, playing in semi-finals and finals, when it could be different weather conditions than what you would get normally for a June final, where it will different.

“However, to experience that, you have to get to that position first. Just like every other year our intentions will be to use these first block of games to make sure we get there and start to tick a few of those boxes off.

“That’s when you can start to look beyond that and talk about semi-finals and finals. For now, we are not going to look that far ahead until we start knocking over a few points because we are not that far ahead of the rest of the field for us to start putting ourselves under pressure by not turning up and playing well.

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“I don’t think Leicester will try and change their DNA too much. It’s more of a case that I think they will try and rediscover it. Let’s not forget, Leicester have won a lot of competitions and they have been a very strong club for a very long time, so their ethos and what they are all about will still remain relatively strong.”

EXETER CHIEFS (v Leicester, Saturday)
15 Stuart Hogg; 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn; 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 Jannes Kirsten, 8 Sam Simmonds.

Replacements

16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Don Armand, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Ian Whitten.

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