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'Not afraid to question things': Exeter bring back all their Lions

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

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Exeter boss Rob Baxter has made six changes to his side that defeated Sale last Sunday, including bringing in his three remaining Lions to the starting XV for this Saturday’s home Gallagher Premiership meeting with Worcester. The Chiefs already had Stuart Hogg starting in Manchester but all four of their Lions contingent will now feature with Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds included in place of Jack Yeandle, Sean Lonsdale and Don Armand.

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They will face a Warriors opposition that hands club debuts to Rory Sutherland and Duhan van der Merwe, their two Lions tourists who have joined from Edinburgh. Baxter, whose other changes are Tom Hendrickson, Alec Hepburn and Harry Williams, said about his Lions contingent: “Obviously it is great to have them back and available for selection again. That said, they have been contributing a fair bit these last few weeks in training. They have certainly helped up the intensity of our shadow 23 in training, but they have also challenged things in meetings as well.

“You can see with all of them a growing maturity of being away in that environment and knowing what is expected at the very top end of the game. They have not been afraid to question things and say things haven’t been great these last few weeks. That can be hard to do, especially when you are not playing themselves, but it’s them that are helping to drive the standards amongst the whole group upwards.”

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Jonny Hill guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload
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Jonny Hill guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload

Baxter has earlier touched on Simmonds and his Lions experience at his midweek Exeter media briefing. “The only conversation I have had with Sam has been about his little girl that was just born at the weekend and how he has been getting on with being a dad. That is what is important here and now, how his time is going there. How is everything going at home, is he feeling ready to play? That is the conversation we had. 

“We don’t spend hours and hours and hours dwelling stuff outside the club, that is away from what is very important to us. I don’t need to sit down and analyse his Lions situation with him. I have spoken to him about it and he said he enjoyed the experience. 

 

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He had a good last year. It led to the Lions call-up, it led to him being named in this provisional 45-man (England) EPS squad. Everything that has happened is all on an upward trajectory for Sam and that is what we are going to keep discussing with him. He is on the way up, he is having a golden period and he has got to keep driving that for as long as he can.”

EXETER (vs Worcester, Saturday): 15. Stuart Hogg; 14. Facundo Cordero, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Tom Hendrickson, 11. Tom O’Flaherty; 10. Harvey Skinner, 9. Jack Maunder; 1. Alec Hepburn, 2. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3. Harry Williams, 4. Will Witty, 5. Jonny Hill, 6. Dave Ewers, 7. Richard Capstick, 8. Sam Simmonds. Reps: 16. Jack Innard, 17. Billy Keast, 18. Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19. Sam Skinner, 20. Christ Tshiunza, 21. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22. Joe Simmonds, 23. Ian Whitten.

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