Chiefs side to face Gloucester
6th April 2018
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Ali Hepher says the time has come for Exeter Chiefs to "get the hammer down" and propel themselves ever closer to the Aviva Premiership play-offs.
 
With just four rounds of the regular season remaining, the defending champions currently sit top of the pile, eight points clear of next best Saracens, and ten clear of third-place Wasps.
 
It's a perfect position for Devon's finest to find themselves in, but head coach Hepher acknowledges the Chiefs must look to strengthen their grip on proceedings, starting with Sunday's clash against Gloucester at a packed out Sandy Park (3pm).
 
"We've been working towards this for a long time now," said Hepher. "Things are getting more exciting by the week, but we know we have a tough challenge at the weekend against a Gloucester side, who are flying high and going strong at the moment.
 
"This is the beauty of the Premiership, right the way until the final weekend most years you have something to play for. We have lots to fight for, as have they. We're expecting Gloucester to be full bore, but they'll also get us full bore. It's a great challenge for us to have, but these are the challenges you need to make sure you peak at the end of the season."
 
Equally, the Chiefs themselves are in fine fettle and buoyed by collecting the Anglo-Welsh Cup a week ago with victory over Bath, Hepher says he and his team are, quite rightly, excited about what the rest of the season can bring.
 
"Last week was another great result for the club," he continued. "Winning a trophy at any time is fantastic and it's provided great prep leading into this week's game. 
 
"We know Gloucester have threats across the board and Johan has done a great job pulling them together. They play with an open style, bring lots of line speed, and come at you from all angles. That said, the important thing is we make sure we get ourselves right and that we make sure we get our prep in place, then turn up in the right shape and hopefully get the win."
 
With over 40 players used in the past fortnight to see off Bath both in the Premiership and Anglo-Welsh  Cup, the Chiefs coaching staff have had plenty to consider this past week in terms of selection for Sunday's showdown.
 
"We're in a good place at the moment," added Hepher. "We had a group of players who went to Bath and performed very well up there in the league, then we had another group last weekend who put in an equally impressive performance in the cup. It's given us plenty of options and that's what you want at this stage of the season.
 
"We've got a large majority of the squad available to us, the medical team have done a great job in getting a few of the guys back from injury, so now we're looking to put the hammer down and really hit our straps in terms of performance over these last few weeks.
 
"Conditions will no doubt play a part along the way, but we showed at Bath that we can win in the rain, and we've shown plenty of times in the past that we can win in the dry. Whatever we get this weekend, we know we've got the game plan to get a result, so we're comfortable with that."
 
England international Don Armand will lead the Chiefs into battle against the Cherry & Whites and he is one of a number of 13 players who are brought back into the starting line-up having been rested last weekend.
 
Just Dave Dennis and Joe Simmonds are retained from last week's starters, while there are returns to the match-day squad for both Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Nowell after recent ankle injuries, as well as winger Olly Woodburn, who missed out on facing his former club at the Rec last month.


15 Lachie Turner
14 Ian Whitten
13 Henry Slade
12 Sam Hill
11 Olly Woodburn
10 Joe Simmonds
9 Nic White
1 Alec Hepburn
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie
3 Tomas Francis
4 Sam Skinner
5 Jonny Hill
6 Dave Dennis
7 Don Armand (capt)
8 Sam Simmonds
 
16 Jack Yeandle
17 Ben Moon
18 Greg Holmes
19 Mitch Lees
20 Dave Ewers
21 Stu Townsend
22 Gareth Steenson
23 Jack Nowell
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