Exeter v Leicester, Aviva Premiership, January 2
Chiefs look to upset Tigers
January 2, 2011
Manu Tuilagi enhanced his reputation against Sale by grabbing two tries in a powerful display © Getty Images
Leicester travel to Exeter on Sunday buoyed by their best Premiership performance of the season.
The Tigers ran in eight tries as they thrashed Sale Sharks 54-21 at Welford Road on Monday with 19-year-old Manu Tuilagi and New Zealander Scott Hamilton grabbing two tries each in an enterprising display. The crushing manner of Leicester's win over Sale would have struck fear into any side, not least Premiership newcomers, but Exeter have proven the extent of their belief and mental reserves this season.
Their trip to Bath on Boxing Day was aborted, but they have won three of their last four in the league and will be optimistic of grabbing a first victory over Leicester since 1966 at Sandy Park after pushing the Tigers so close at Welford Road at the start of the season.
Exeter - Player to Watch: Fly-half Ryan Davis has been amongst the points in the Challenge Cup and a lot will be expected of him if the Chiefs are to upset the Tigers.
Exeter - Team News: The Chiefs welcome back an arsenal of big guns, including a new midfield partnership of Sireli Naqelevuki and Jason Shoemark, plus two changes in the front-row where Chris Whitehead and Hoani Tui are both handed starting roles. Fly-half Gareth Steenson makes his return to first team duties following a knee injury sustained against London Irish in October, whilst Chad Slade gets the nod over Dave Gannon, who picked up a knock in training earlier this week
Leicester - Player to Watch: Centre Manu Tuilagi grabbed two tries in the rout of Sale last time out and will be hungry to add to his tally at Sandy Park.
Leicester - Team News: Leicester Tigers make five changes with No.8 Jordan Crane reclaiming his place after recovering from injury and fellow England internationals George Chuter, Dan Cole, and Ben Youngs returning after being rested last week. Matt Smith is named on the wing in the other change to the starting XV. Fly-half Toby Flood is named among the replacements after recovering from injury.
Key Battle: Second row duo James Hanks and Tom Hayes caused the Tigers problems at Welford Road and their battle with Leicester counterparts Louis Deacon and Ed Slater will be one to watch.
Trivia: Exeter's 24-12 defeat at London Wasps on December 5 ended a three game winning run in the Premiership
Stats: Exeter's Tom Johnson has carried the most times (134) this season with Leicester's Tom Waldrom in second
"The interesting thing for us will be who gets the benefit out of the last three weeks. Us for being well rested or Leicester for being battle-hardened?" Chiefs coach Rob Baxter poses an interesting question.
"At Welford Road they played really well, they could have won it and were unlucky to go home with nothing in the end. We have nothing but respect for them." - Leicester boss Richard Cockerill remembers a scare earlier in the season
Fantasy: Leicester's Scott Hamilton has racked up an impressive 68 fantasy points this season and if he is not in your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby line-up perhaps he should be?
Prediction: A valiant effort from the Chiefs but Leicester are on a roll and will pick up a bonus-point victory
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