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Hogg left out as Exeter name team to take on a stacked Leicester

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Rob Baxter has had no hesitation slotting England internationals Henry Slade and Sam Simmonds straight back into his Exeter team following the completion of the Guinness Six Nations last weekend, but there is no return for Scotland pair Stuart Hogg and Sam Skinner following their country’s round five loss to Ireland.

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Jonny Gray, a starter in Dublin last Saturday, is included in the Chiefs XV to host Leicester on Sunday in the Gallagher Premiership. The Tigers are travelling with their England contingent of Ellis Genge, Ollie Chessum, Ben Youngs and Freddie Steward all set to start, as does Joe Heyes with Nic Dolly on the bench.

However, it’s the resting of Scottish skipper Hogg by Exeter that most piques the interest after the way the Test level captain’s Six Nations campaign unravelled. Hogg was one of six players disciplined by Scotland boss Gregor Townsend after they left the team hotel in Edinburgh to go for a drink on the Sunday after the round four win over Italy.

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This revelation emerged just 24 hours before the kick-off at Aviva Stadium and the full-back was distinctly uncomfortable when talking about the incident post-game. The 29-year-old explained that he had apologised for his actions but it has been much speculated since then that Hogg could well lose the captaincy when Scotland assemble at the end of the season for their three-Test trip to Argentina.

Despite deciding to rest him this Sunday’s Exeter match, Baxter had backed Hogg when asked on Thursday at his weekly media briefing for his view on the controversy that unfolded with Scotland. “People are trying to make out there has been a clear breach of team rules – there has not been,” he said.

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“There was a little bit of ambiguity over what was supposed to happen when he got back to the hotel. That ambiguity was cleared up with a phone call asking the guys to come back. It was one of those things – sometimes it can happen – but it all got cleared up very quickly, almost within minutes of the incident.

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“It’s not like anyone has gone out and got drunk and got into a fight or come back at six o’clock in the morning or missed training, so I can probably understand why the Scottish people involved are a little frustrated that this has been a big issue because it clearly hasn’t been.”

Friday’s Exeter team announcement media release stated: “Baxter wastes little time in drafting back the England duo of Sam Simmonds and Henry Slade to his starting line-up, while Scottish international Jonny Gray is also in from the start against the Tigers. Fellow Scots Sam Skinner and Stuart Hogg are rested this week, but could well return for next week’s home engagement with local rivals Bath.”

EXETER: 15. Josh Hodge; 14. Olly Woodburn, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Ian Whitten, 11. Tom O’Flaherty; 10. Joe Simmonds (capt), 9. Sam Maunder; 1. Alec Hepburn, 2. Jack Innard, 3. Harry Williams, 4. Richard Capstick, 5. Jonny Gray, 6. Dave Ewers, 7. Jacques Vermeulen, 8. Sam Simmonds. Reps: 16. Jack Yeandle, 17. Billy Keast, 18. Patrick Schickerling, 19. Will Witty, 20. Santiago Grondona, 21. Jack Maunder, 22. Harvey Skinner, 23. Facundo Cordero.

LEICESTER: 15. Freddie Steward; 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Guy Porter, 12. Dan Kelly, 11. Nemani Nadolo, 10. George Ford, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Julian Montoya, 3. Joe Heyes, 4. Harry Wells, 5. Eli Snyman, 6. Ollie Chessum, 7. Hanro Liebenberg, 8. Jasper Wiese. Reps: 16. Nic Dolly, 17. James Whitcombe, 18. Nephi Leatigaga, 19. Calum Green, 20. Tommy Reffell, 21. Jack van Poortvliet, 22. Freddie Burns, 23. Matias Moroni.

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