Rugby Union: The Big Boys Are Back

Given their form this season so far, Premiership leaders Leicester Tigers are heading for the top four play-offs, and on 76 points and being 12 points clear of Saracens in second place, the Welford Road side can be more than optimistic as they prepare for this Sunday’s clash down in Devon.

Exeter Chiefs, fourth, on 56 points, are in decent form with three wins in their last four games.While they lost to Worcester in their last league match by 35-31, with home advantage at Sandy Park, the Chiefs will be quietly confident of gaining revenge for the defeat by Leicester (34-19) at the start of the Premiership campaign.

The significant factor in this game is that both clubs welcome back several internationals who’ve been taking part in the Six Nations.

Exeter should have Scotland’s skipper and full back Stuart Hogg back on duty as well as forward Sam Simmonds and backs Henry Slade and Jack Nowell who were playing for England as they lost in Paris against Grand Slam winners France.

The Tigers too will be strengthened by the return of Ellis Genge, Ben Youngs, George Ford and Freddie Steward, also playing in Paris, so this contest in the league should be one of the outstanding games of the entire season to date.

Leicester with 16 wins in 19 matches have made solid progress under coach Steve Borthwick throughout the current campaign and it’s sensible to back them to win again this Sunday.

With five wins in their last six matches, Tigers are most consistent, have scored more tries than Exeter – 69 to 59 – and when it comes to defence, the league leaders have a better record as well..they’ve let in 41 tries compared to 45 by the Chiefs.

Twenty points separate the two sides, and while a close battle is predictable, the Tigers may just have enough ammunition to complete the league double.

Exeter’s record in the league is 11 victories and eight defeats in 19 matches, and coach Rob Baxter can be sure in a match of such importance to his team’s aim of reaching the play-offs, that his squad will give everything and more against the Tigers whose place in the top four seems secure already.

This will be the 31st meeting in the Premiership between Exeter and Leicester – Leicester have the better record but only just – the Chiefs have been successful in 14 games and the Tigers 16.