Exeter boss Rob Baxter has included Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg to start in Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership match at Sandy Park versus Northampton but fellow Scot Jonny Gray and Wales prop Tomas Francis, who also featured as Six Nations starters last week at Murrayfield, have been rested.
Baxter had spoken in midweek about the balancing act involved with managing his non-England internationals such as Hogg who were back at Exeter and available to play if needed during these fallow weeks in the Six Nations.
“It’s great that they are about and they are available, but that doesn’t mean you lump them straight back into the team,” said the Chiefs boss on Wednesday but he went on to note the view of Hogg about how well he had been performing recently.
“He feels he is on a roll of form, he is playing well, he is really enjoying it, he is very upbeat about his own individual performances and it’s only what we expected from him. That is why we looked at bringing him to the club and he is certainly performing at that level at the moment.”
Youngsters Marcus Street, James Kenny, Richard Capstick, Harvey Skinner and Josh Hodge have all played their part for Exeter in recent weeks, helping the reigning Gallagher Premiership champions put together a current three-game winning streak thanks to triumphs over Worcester Warriors, Newcastle Falcons and London Irish.
'The reason for Sam Simmonds being overlooked yet again has to be something completely outside of rugby matters and I think we need to hear why'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 19, 2021
This quintet will now feature once more for the Chiefs. Capstick, Hodge and Skinner will all start with fly-half Skinner one of two changes to the back division, replacing Joe Simmonds who will start this game on the bench. Hodge switches to the wing in place of Alex Cuthbert, who came off early last week just two games into his latest comeback, meaning Scottish captain Hogg comes in at full-back.
“It’s great that we are starting to see these young players really starting to flourish because it has not been easy for them,” said Baxter after naming his team on Friday. “I don’t mind saying, we have probably been tougher on them in terms of their reviews and their performances than we have on the senior players. They have to turn up each day as winners, not just be happy with being in the first team, and contribute to our success.”
EXETER (vs Northampton, Saturday)
15 Stuart Hogg; 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Tom Hendrickson, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Josh Hodge; 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Jack Maunder; 1 Alec Hepburn, 2 Jack Yeandle (capt), 3 Harry Williams, 4 Will Witty, 5 Sam Skinner, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Richard Capstick, 8 Sam Simmonds. Reps: 16 Jack Innard, 17 James Kenny, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Don Armand, 20 Sean Lonsdale, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Ian Whitten.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 18, 2021
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