Exeter visits Clermont on Sunday chasing a repeat of last weekend’s shock win over the French side
Wales’ Jonathan Davies returns for Clermont after seven months out with a cruciate ligament injury
Carl Rimmer and England’s Geoff Parling are among Exeter’s starting forwards for the European Champions Cup tie
Wales international Jonathan Davies makes his Clermont return when his side hosts Exeter Chiefs in the European Champions Cup on Sunday.
Davies was ruled out of the World Cup through a ruptured cruciate ligament, but six months after undergoing surgery is ready to take to the field.
“There’s no better way to test the knee out,” Davies told Sky Sports. “It’s going to be a tough game. Exeter are playing some really good rugby.
“It’s going to be very testing – a real lung-burner I think!
“I’ve done a lot of running but there’s no real replacement for match fitness so I am looking forward to getting back out there and getting into the swing of things.
“I’m sure there will be a little bit of rustiness but I feel like I’ve ticked all the boxes to get back onto the field.”
Vincent Debaty, Benjamin Kayser and Daniel Kotze also come in to to make a new front-row, while Jamie Cudmore is at lock and Alexandre Lapandry and Fritz Lee come into the back-row.
Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez continue at half-back while the back three of Noa Nakaitaci, David Strettle and Scott Spedding is unchanged.
Meanwhile, Exeter boss Rob Baxter’s plans for the game have been somewhat hampered with the news that Sam Hill, Will Chudley and Olly Woodburn have not trained this week, so there are changes to Exeter’s winning formula of a week ago.
Up front, Carl Rimmer comes into the front-row in place of Ben Moon, whilst England international Geoff Parling gets the nod over Mitch Lees in the second-row.
Behind, Dave Lewis makes his first start of the campaign in place of Chudley, while Matt Jess takes over on the right wing from Woodburn.
Exeter Chiefs won their first match ever against Clermont Auvergne last weekend, ending a streak of two wins for the French side.
This was the first time since 2011 that Clermont had lost a third or fourth round fixture in the Champions Cup
The Chiefs have strung together wins against Bordeaux-Bègles and ASM Clermont Auvergne, another win against the French outfit would be the third in a row for Exeter, their best ever run in the Champions Cup. Exe
Clermont are one of four sides with a 100% scrum success rate this season; however they have the lowest lineout success rate (71%) in the tournament.
The French side have averaged 11.5 turnovers won per game so far, the best rate of any side.
Exeter have lost six of their eight trips to play in France in European competition (Champions Cup and Challenge Cup) however they did win on their last excursion there (La Rochelle, December 2014).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Clermont: Morgan Parra
Exeter: Jack Nowell
Winger Jack Nowell has been in exceptional form in the Champions Cup so far this season, making more carries (45) and beaten more defenders (19) than anyone else in the Champions Cup this season so far.
Clermont: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 David Strettle, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hosea Gear, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Vito Kolelishvili, 5 Sébastian Vahaamahina, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Thomas Domingo, 18 Clément Ric, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Damien Chouly, 21 Ludovic Radoslavjevic, 22 Pato Fernandez, 23 Albert Vulivuli
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Jack Nowell, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Geoff Parling, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Carl Rimmer
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Moray Low, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Michele Campanaro
Date: Sunday, December 20
Venue: Stade Marcel Michelin
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Stefano Pennè (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)