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Premiership: Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks (Sat)

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Published in Rugby
Friday, 11 June 2021 05:02

Exeter welcome back influential flanker Dave Ewers for their Premiership clash with play-off rivals Sale.

Alec Hepburn returns at prop while Alex Cuthbert starts on the wing in place of Facundo Cordero. Ollie Devoto is preferred to Ian Whitten at centre.

Sale make four changes with Manu Tuilagi starting a game for the first time since rupturing an Achilles tendon at Northampton in September.

British Lion Tom Curry replaces his brother Ben in the back row.

Curry will captain the Sale side with Cobus Wiese replacing Josh Beaumont at lock and Arron Reed preferred to Marland Yarde on the wing.

Exeter are in prime position to finish second and secure a home semi-final against Sale next weekend - they only need a bonus point to finish in the top two.

Sale have to get a bonus-point win and hope Exeter do not get a try-scoring or losing bonus if they are to take the Chiefs to the AJ Bell Stadium for the semi-final.

Exeter could still finish top of the table should they win and Bristol lose or draw at home to London Irish and fail to register any bonus points.

"This is a weird one, with the five-point lead," Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Sport.

"If someone had said to me six or seven weeks ago: 'Would you take being five points ahead of Sale going into the last game and having to play Sale?', I'd have taken that every day of the week, I'd have taken that all season.

"It's surprising what I saw at the weekend, I saw quite a lot of people and different TV pundits saying that for the first time in a while Exeter were under pressure for a home semi-final.

"But we've won six or seven in a row, Sale have won eight. This has been happening for the last two or three months that we've been going ahead, Sale have caught us up."

Sale go into the game on a club-record eight-game winning streak and have lost only once in 11 games since beating Exeter 25-20 at home on 26 February.

Director of rugby Alex Sanderson says the fact that they are still in the running for second place going into the match with the reigning Premiership champions is a testament to the attitude his squad.

"We're constantly awestruck by the mentality of these boys on the field and off it, they've really bought into it," he told BBC Radio Manchester.

"All along the way I haven't had to persuade, I haven't had to cajole, I haven't had to even give them the choice, they've just bought in from day one.

"That was the most refreshing, surprising aspect of the role coming in. It's their application that's got us to where we are at this point in the season in as good form as we are."

Exeter: Hogg; Cuthbert, Slade, Devoto, O'Flaherty; J Simmonds (capt), J Maunder; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, S Skinner, Hill, Ewers, Kirsten, S Simmonds

Replacements: Yeandle, Moon, Street, Lonsdale, Capstick, Townsend, H Skinner, Whitten

Sale: Hammersley; McGuigan, S James, Tuilagi, Reed; MacGinty, de Klerk; Harrison, van der Merwe, Oosthuizen, Wiese, J-L du Preez, Neild, T Curry (capt), D du Preez

Replacements: Langdon, Rodd, John, Phillips, B Curry, Cliff, R du Preez, Janse van Rensburg

Referee: Karl Dickson

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