Keep up to date with the latest score, stats and join the conversation from anywhere in the world in our Live Match Centre (click here).
Ahead of the Sunday 3.0pm kick-off, Rob Baxter has been buoyed by the return of four more of his Chiefs following the culmination of the World Cup.
Welshman Tomas Francis is back nursing a shoulder injury sustained in the semi-final against South Africa, while English trio Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell and Henry Slade are just nursing the wounds of narrowly missing out on lifting the William Webb Ellis Cup.
All three, however, will get the chance to get back into the rugby groove immediately as Baxter has thrust them all into his match-day squad. Slade will start in the centre alongside Sam Hill, while Cornish pair Cowan-Dickie and Nowell are named among the replacements.
(Continue reading below…)
Sam Simmonds is back at No8, so the back row is re-jigged with Dave Ewers the man to miss out on this occasion. Behind the scrum, Aussie Nic White comes in for his first start of the season, while summer signing Stuart Hogg is poised to make his Sandy Park bow for the Chiefs, having featured twice already on the road against Bath and Worcester.
Alongside Cowan-Dickie and Nowell, there is also a welcome return to first-team duties for Don Armand, who has yet to feature this term following summer surgery.
'I just sat in front of all the players and said ‘what do you think of all this salary cap stuff?’ https://t.co/pKeeo1IvP9
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 9, 2019
“Gone are the days now when you under-estimate the threat of a promoted side,” warned Baxter. “We, better than a lot of clubs, appreciate where we have come from and we have always given Bristol an awful lot of credit for what they have done.
“It’s probably what has allowed us to get the results we have needed – and we certainly haven’t gone into any of those games lightly. They have been battles every single time and we’re expecting a similar thing this weekend.”
Bristol, meanwhile, have Harry Randall lined up for his first start of the Premiership campaign as Bristol. The scrum-half is one of three changes to Pat Lam’s side following last weekend’s win over Sale. Harry Thacker is the only change to the pack, while Will Hurrell comes into the midfield with Piers O’Conor switching to the wing.
Player welfare is a delicate subject post-World Cup, especially with Exeter selecting the way they have for their Premiership match next Sundayhttps://t.co/JdeEO4zMRx
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 8, 2019
Director of rugby Lam said: “The need to be right physically for these sort of games is critical. Last year, we played them three times and we were all within one score – and it’s the little things done well that make the difference.
“This is close to an international. They are really big games. You can do things perfectly nine times out of ten, but it’s that one mistake that can cost you the match and that is a good challenge for the growth of this team.”
England under-20s hooker Will Capon and winger Toby Fricker are listed among the replacements and could make their Premiership debuts for Bristol if they feature.
EXETER: Stuart Hogg; Tom O’Flaherty, Henry Slade, Sam Hill, Alex Cuthbert; Joe Simmonds, Nic White; Alec Hepburn, Jack Yeandle (capt), Harry Williams, Jannes Kirsten, Jonny Hill, Jacques Vermeulen, Matt Kvesic, Sam Simmonds. Reps: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Billy Keast, Marcus Street, Sean Lonsdale, Don Armand, Jack Maunder, Gareth Steenson, Jack Nowell.
BRISTOL: Charles Piutau; Luke Morahan, Will Hurrell, Siale Piutau, Piers O’Conor; Callum Sheedy, Harry Randall; Jake Woolmore, Harry Thacker, John Afoa, Dave Attwood, Chris Vui, Steven Luatua (capt), Jake Heenan, Nathan Hughes. Reps: Will Capon, Yann Thomas, Lewis Thiede, Ed Holmes, Dan Thomas, Andy Uren, Ioan Lloyd, Toby Fricker.
WATCH: The Bear Pit, the 2018/19 RugbyPass pre-season documentary with Bristol Bears
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.