Exeter Chiefs v London Wasps, Aviva Premiership, September 25
Test of character for Exeter and Wasps
September 22, 2011
Exeter's Tom Johnson offloads the ball during his side's defeat at Bath last weekend © Getty Images
Exeter Chiefs and London Wasps meet at Sandy Park on Sunday and both sides will be intent on getting back to winning ways after suffering their first defeats of the season, last weekend.
Exeter produced one of the biggest upsets in Premiership history by stunning Leicester at Welford Road on the opening day and they followed up that win by sweeping Newcastle aside seven days later. However, their perfect start to the new campaign came to an end last weekend as they were edged out 23-19 by Bath at the Rec.
However, they still lie second in the table and, with the benefit of home advantage, will be looking forward to the chance to heap more misery on Wasps, who suffered a shock 29-18 defeat at home to Sale. That reversal came as a massive surprise given that Dai Young's side had racked up wins over reigning champions Saracens and last year's runners-up, Leicester Tigers, in the first two rounds, so it will be fascinating to discover if Wasps are truly going to challenge for a place in the top-four this year.
Exeter Chiefs - Player to Watch: Peter Short is showing signs of being back to his imperious best in the second-row and will hope to push on against a Wasps pack void of a number of their charges due to the World Cup. Expect Short to attempt to use his bulk to bulldozer his way through the Wasps defence.
Exeter Chiefs - Team News: Coach Rob Baxter welcomes back Luke Arscott, Sireli Naqelevuki and Richard Baxter back into the side for the match with Phil Dollman, Bryan Rennie and James Phillips all missing out on selection. Tom Hayes skippers the side from the second-row.
London Wasps - Player to Watch: Joe Launchbury is going about his business at blindside flanker as if he's been playing at the top level for years. The England U20 international has clearly learnt the position quickly and is putting in performances well beyond his years.
London Wasps - Team News: There are three changes to the starting XV, with Bob Baker coming in to make his first start in the Premiership this season at tight-head, while Richard Birkett and Riki Flutey also return to the starting XV, replacing the injured John Hart and Chris Mayor. There is also a positional shift in the team with Ross Filipo taking the No.8 shirt. The youthful quartet of Simon McIntyre, Matt Everard. Elliot Daly and Jack Wallace all take spots on the bench - with Hugo Southwell dropping out of the 22 having failed to recover from a knock.
Key Battle: The battle at openside flanker has epic written all over it. James Scaysbrook is consistent performer and he comes up against Jonathan Poff who has made an electric start to his Adams Park career.
Trivia: Each side won its respective home game when the two teams met last season. Wasps have visited Sandy Park twice before in all competitions and are yet to win at the venue.
Stats: Christian Wade leads the Premiership try-scoring charts with four tries with Harlequins' Ugo Monye hot on his heels on three.
" We all know how great the crowds are here at Sandy Park, but it's massively important that we play in a manner and show the correct kind of commitment that makes supporters want to come and watch again, again and again. We feel we do that, but that said we are aware it's a tough time for everybody and the key for us is to make Sandy Park a place where you can come and get away from things for an afternoon and lose yourself in the game."
"We are under no illusions about how tough it will be to get a result at Sandy Park and how good a side they can be. But we have had a very focused week and I am looking for the team to make some major improvements on last week's performance."
Prediction: Exeter will bounce back from their narrow loss to Bath and despite the threat of Dai Young's men edge a high scoring game.
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