We want to be the ones dominating says Lees
CHIEFS talisman Jack Nowell returns as Exeter embark on a revenge mission against Castres to keep their Champions Cup hopes alive.
Nowell has recovered from the hamstring injury he suffered at the back end of England’s autumn campaign and replaces Phil Dollman at full-back – good news for both club and country with the Six Nations three weeks away.
Exeter were beaten 29-25 in October by a Castres side reduced to 14 men. Lock forward Mitch Lees admits there is no margin for error if they are to avenge that loss and head to Munster next Saturday with everything to play for. Lees told The Rugby
Paper: “We started strongly over there but they overpowered us with 14 men so we’re looking for revenge.
“This is like a quarterfinal already and it’s all to play for for both teams going into this. We think we thrive quite well in these situations and we want to really get out there and stick it to them.”
Nowell’s inclusion is one of eight changes to the Exeter starting XV that struggled past Bristol.
Alec Hepburn, skipper Jack Yeandle and Tomas Francis form a new front row, while Don Armand takes the No.7 jersey.
Behind the pack, Nic White and Joe Simmonds present a fresh half-back partnership and Ollie Devoto is recalled to the centres.
Chiefs need a big win to set up a Pool decider at Munster and, having grabbed back the No.10 jersey from Gareth Steenson, who is benched, Simmonds told TRP: “We didn’t have a great start in this competition but we’re still alive and if we can bang home a win today, that will set us up nicely for Munster next week.
“We want to nail a fast start in the first 20 minutes and if we can put in a big performance, the result will take care of itself.”
Castres remain in contention and warmed-up with a solid defensive performance in winning 16-6 away at Grenoble last week.
Lees adds: “Like most French sides, they carry powerfully and work hard around the corner to dominate you. It’s about matching that physicality and driving them back with two-man hits of your own.
“They then tend to run or kick so we want to be the ones controlling and driving the game, not trying to defend out of trouble.”
Exeter will continue their policy of kicking penalties to the corner. Lees explained: “Our calls are second to none under Sam Skinner and we’ve got very good lineout forwards in Dave Dennis and Jonny Hill controlling the skies.
“We go to some dark places to play a high intensity game that creates set-piece chances – then we’ll back our maul or scrum.”
Castres field the same backline that defended heroically in Grenoble, while Marc-Antoine Rallier and Marc Clerc come into the front row and Camille Gerondeau is at No.6.
Back: Jack Nowell