Match Preview: Exeter Chiefs
A trip to the south coast of England awaits Glasgow Warriors this weekend, as Dave Rennie and his side travel to Sandy Park to take on Exeter Chiefs.
With both sides having claimed victory in their opening matches of the 2019/20 Heineken Champions Cup, Saturday’s fixture will be a top-of-the-table clash between last year’s beaten finalists in the English Premiership and Guinness PRO14.
An Exeter side packed with star power – as well as a familiar face to the Warrior Nation – lies in wait for Rennie’s men, as they look to continue their pursuit of only their second-ever Champions Cup quarter-final.
Yet with the Warrior Nation set to make themselves heard in Devon, the stage is set for what could be a thrilling affair.
Here’s how Exeter are shaping up ahead of Saturday’s encounter:
Exeter Chiefs Form Guide
Rob Baxter’s squad currently sit atop Pool Two of the Heineken Champions Cup after their round one success in La Rochelle, whilst their record of two wins from their four Premiership matches to date is good enough for fifth place in the fledgling table.
17 points from the boot of Joe Simmonds guided the Sandy Park side to a 22-17 victory over Harlequins in their opening match of the Premiership campaign, before suffering a 13-10 defeat in dreadful conditions against Bath at the Rec.
Baxter’s men bounced back to record a 24-20 win over Worcester Warriors at Sixways in round three, yet a last-gasp try from Dan Thomas saw Bristol Bears deny Exeter back-to-back victories in their final match before the European break.
Undeterred, the men from Devon made a statement in their opening match of the Heineken Champions Cup. Four tries – including an eye-catching interception from Henry Slade – secured a bonus-point victory against La Rochelle at the Stade Marcel Deflandre, taking them into this weekend’s match on top of the pile.
After a season that saw them come within touching distance of the Premiership title, Exeter fans said goodbye to a host of favourite sons over the course of the summer.
Argentinian international Santiago Cordero was the highest-profile departure from Sandy Park following the defeat to Saracens, with the winger joining Bordeaux-Begles ahead of the 2019/20 season.
Former Glasgow prop Moray Low also departed the club – and the sport - as he hung up his boots for the final time, whilst academy graduates Toby Salmon and Tom Lawday joined Newcastle Falcons and Harlequins respectively.
Glasgow Warriors supporters will be all too aware of Exeter’s marquee summer signing, after Stuart Hogg penned a two-year deal with the Sandy Park outfit.
The Scotland full-back was joined amongst the fresh faces on the south coast by a brace of hard-carrying South African forwards, with Jannes Kirsten and Jacques Vermeulen arriving from Super Rugby.
Highly-rated second-rower Will Witty also linked up with Baxter’s men ahead of the new campaign, making the journey south from Newcastle Falcons.
Ones to watch
It’s almost certain that all eyes from the travelling Warriors supporters will be trained on Hogg at some point over the course of the 80 minutes on Saturday. The Glasgow centurion’s blend of acceleration and footwork keeps every defence in world rugby on it’s toes, whilst his cannon-like boot is equally capable of keeping the scoreboard ticking over as it is pinning opponents in their own territory.
One of the stars of England’s run to the 2019 Rugby World Cup final, Slade has built a reputation as one of the smoothest midfield operators in the business. Still just 26, the centre’s handling ability and rugby intelligence makes him a key cog in the Exeter machine.
When a back-rower scores 12 tries in a season, people tend to sit up and take notice. That’s exactly what Sam Simmonds achieved in 2017/18, and the number eight continues to pose a dynamic threat off the base of the scrum with his pace and ball-carrying ability.
Glasgow and Exeter are relatively familiar foes in European competition, having been drawn together in the pool stages of the competition on two previous occasions.
Each side won their respective home match in the 2017/18 season, with Exeter claiming a 24-15 victory over the Warriors at Sandy Park back in October 2017.
Rennie’s side exacted a measure of revenge in the return fixture, however – try-of-the-season contenders from Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Matt Fagerson, combined with a penalty try, gave the Warriors a bonus-point 28-21 win at Scotstoun in January 2018.
It was a different story back in the 2013/14 campaign, when a Gregor Townsend-led Glasgow side did the double over their English opponents.
Tries from Tim Swinson and Tyrone Holmes saw the Warriors claim a 20-15 win at Scotstoun in October 2013, before Sean Lamont and Sean Maitland touched down in a 15-10 victory at Sandy Park three months later.
Pascal Gauzere will be the man with the whistle on Saturday afternoon, having most recently refereed the Warriors in their pool defeat to Saracens at Allianz Park last season.
Maxime Chalon and Jonathan Dufort will be his assistants at Sandy Park, with Eric Gauzins acting as TMO.
Glasgow Warriors supporters not making the trip to Exeter can watch the match live on BT Sport 2 and BT Sport Ultimate on Saturday afternoon, as well as following our live match centre at glasgowwarriors.org. Kick-off is at 3.15pm.