Dave Lewis gets first start for Exeter Chiefs against Gloucester
Dave Lewis will make his first Exeter Chiefs start when he faces former club Gloucester in Sunday's Aviva Premiership clash at Kingsholm (2pm).
The scrum-half is one of four changes head coach Rob Baxter has made to his starting XV following last weekend's 21-9 loss at home to defending champions Leicester Tigers.
The 24-year-old, who spent six years with the Cherry & Whites before his move to Sandy Park, replaces Haydn Thomas in the number nine jersey for the televised clash.
Other changes see Chris Whitehead and Ben White come into the pack in place of Jack Yeandle and James Scaysbrook, whilst behind the inclusion of Matt Jess on the right wing means there is a slight re-jig with Ian Whitten partnering Sam Hill in the centre.
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On the bench, summer recruit Don Armand is included for the first time in place of Tom Hayes; Kai Horstmann, fresh from scoring two tries from the Braves in Monday's win at Bath, fills the void left by White and Tongan international Fetu'u Vainikolo - another who scored a brace at Bath - is given his first taste of first team action following his close season move from Connacht.
Despite the new-look squad, it is still a powerful array of talent on show from the Chiefs as they look to overcome Nigel Davies' men on home turf. Last season both clubs enjoyed a victory apiece in the top flight with Gloucester edging home 18-16 at Kingsholm thanks to the boot of Freddie Burns; whilst at Sandy Park the Devon club secured Heineken Cup rugby for a second successive year when they triumphed 40-39 on the final day of the season.
Sunday's showdown promises to be equally as tight and Baxter is confident that after a week of reflecting closely on his side's display against the Tigers, issues raised in the opening 40 minutes of that game have now been eradicated and that his troops will be honed for battle from the outset this weekend.
"Training has gone well this week, so I think we just have to get our mind-sets right about what we want out of the game," he said. "On reflection, I was disappointed with the first half we produced last week, but we have to look at the bigger picture and how we made some changes during the game that ultimately gave us a much improved performance in the second half. Yes, we could have been better and we should have scored us a try in the second half, but it was what happened in the first half that left us chasing the game.
"I've said to the guys this week, we don't always beat Leicester and had we got a losing bonus point, it would not have been the end of the world. As I said, I remember after the game thinking I was disappointed with what we did in the first half, but at the same time I also went away and said to myself 'did I set the team up correctly'?
"Also, did the guys need more direction from myself and the coaches on how we wanted to attack the game? Often we say we want to 'go for it' but that means literally we have to 'go for it' and be brave and not be afraid of making mistakes. As coaches that's something we have re-iterated to the guys this week because we want to make sure we are all on the same page and more comfortable with ourselves when we go out onto the pitch."
Standing in the way of the Chiefs, however, will be a Gloucester side who, on their last home outing, underlined their credentials with a last-gasp victory over Northampton Saints. Since that game they have followed that success up with a win at Newcastle Falcons and will now be targeting the scalp of the Chiefs next up.
"It should be a great test up at Kingsholm," added Baxter. "Games between ourselves and them are normally great game of rugby and there's not often too much between either of us. As I always say, the result is not always everything, but the way we decide to play certainly is. If we decide to go up and play, fire some shots and put in a level of performance that we can be pleased with, then anything else than happens will happen and you just roll along with things.
"I know our boys are focused ahead of this game and that they'll use the disappointment of last week as a factor too. I think the way they played in the second half half - and the footage they've seen since of that game - they would all agree there was more for them in the first half.
"Wrapping up the whole 80 minutes last week, it wasn't too bad a performance. The way we played in the second half, we would probably have scored tries against most sides and an example of that is the similar period of pressure we had at London Irish when we created lots of points and which ultimately won us the game. We finished strongly last week, and if you ever choose things, you want your performances to finish strongly, so that has to be the basis from which we start the game at Gloucester on Sunday."
Exeter Chiefs: Dollman; Jess, Whitten, Hill, James, Steenson, Lewis, Sturgess, Whitehead, Tui, Mumm (capt), Welch, Johnson, White, Ewers. Reps: Yeandle, Moon, Rimmer, Armand, Horstmann, Thomas, Slade, Vainikolo