Exeter v Sale preview: Team news, kick-off time, line-ups and stats for the Aviva Premiership clash
Exeter welcome Sale to Sandy Park on Saturday as they look to continue their winning run in the Aviva Premiership: 15:00 kick-off
Chiefs fly-half Gareth Steenson is set to run out for his 100th Premiership appearance for the club
Dan Braid returns along with Sam Tuitupou, Josh Beaumont, Danny Cipriani and TJ Ioane for the Sharks
Gareth Steenson makes his 100th Premiership appearance for Exeter as they look to bounce back from their heavy defeat to Clermont in the Champions Cup against Sale Sharks at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Rob Baxter’s side were on the wrong end of a 42-10 result against the French giants last time out but play in their first ever Boxing Day clash in Aviva Premiership Rugby having lost just one of their last eight encounters in the competition.
The Chiefs, who are second in the table, therefore enter the match firm favourites having lost just once in all competitions on home turf since September 2014.
Exeter are also boosted by the return of Ben Moon and Mitch Lees to the pack while behind Will Chudley and Sam Hill are also back having missed out last time out.
“We will stick with what we have done so far, and the significant thing for us is that the players go into the Sale game with the confidence of knowing that what we have done so far has worked.” revealed Exeter head coach Baxter.
“There is no magic to it. We have to force the things into the area that we are good at, and we have to keep doing that. We have to repeat them, and we have to trust that they work.
“We don’t have to go looking for any magic solutions. You have to do your own role very well, and that is what we are good at as a side. That is the message we will keep reiterating.”
Sunday’s defeat may have dented much of the optimism built up after the 34-19 victory over Clermont at Sandy Park, but their Aviva Premiership form remains strong as they continued to be tipped as genuine title contenders.
Meanwhile, Sale boss Steve Diamond has named his side, as captain Dan Braid returns along with Sam Tuitupou, Josh Beaumont, Danny Cipriani and TJ Ioane.
Exeter have undeniably been one of the sides to beat in the league this season, and the second-placed outfit have lost just once in all competitions at Sandy Park since September 2014.
Each side won its respective home game when the two clubs met in Aviva Premiership Rugby last season, but Sale’s only previous win at Sandy Park came in April 2014 when they won 55-12 – the Chiefs’ biggest reversal at the venue.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Exeter: Thomas Waldrom
Waldrom was magnificent as the Chiefs romped to a impressive 31-14 victory against Clermont two weeks ago, shaping the Chiefs dominant performance in what was a thoroughly entertaining game. The all-action New Zealand-born number 8’s performances should put the four-time England international back into the international fold.
Sale: Danny Cipriani
One of England’s most mercurial talents, Danny Cipriani has always shown promise without consistently delivering on his world class potential. The 27-year-old fly-half has relished his starring role at the AJ Bell Stadium and will be crucial to Steve Diamond’s cause this weekend.
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 James Short, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Moray Low, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Will Hooley, 23 Michele Campagnaro
Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Sam James, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Will Addison, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Josh Beaumont, 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Dan Braid (c), 5 Bryn Evans, 4 Jonathan Mills, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Cameron Neild, 17 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mark Jennings
Date: Saturday, December 26
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce, Andrew Pearce
TMO: Geoffrey Warren