Aviva Premiership: Exeter v Wasps Preview

Rugby players pack down for scrum

The Exeter Chiefs and London Wasps go head-to-head this Sunday afternoon in a repeat of last season's Grand Final.

It has only been four month's since Exeter and Wasps clashed in that epic 2016/2017 Grand Final, so you just know there's going to be a lot of feeling in this one. Both sides have endured mixed starts to the campaign, winning two games apiece while losing one. The hosts do look to be in better shape for this one, however, as they trounced a spirited Worcester side 10-41 last weekend while Wasps went down by three points to Harlequins out in Coventry.

So will the Chiefs repeat their Grand Final antics or will Wasps exact some revenge?

*Don't forget to check out our rugby scribe's European Treble for this weekend's games, which can be found underneath the verdict segment of this piece.

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Exeter Chiefs v London Wasps | Sunday 24 September | Sandy Park | 16:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Exeter 9/20 | Draw 20/1 | Wasps 37/20

The Chiefs got their title defence off to a rocky start as they went down by seven points to Johan Ackermann's Gloucester in the opening week. The men from Devonshire have responded brilliantly to that defeat though, beating London Irish by 30 points in Round 2 and the hammering Worcester 10-41 in the latest round.

The most eye-catching aspect of Chiefs' game over the past fortnight has been their dominance at the set piece. Their 30 point win over Irish came in horrid weather conditions, and their pack were forced to take the bull by the horns in the pouring rain. I personally was surprised by how effective their forwards have been in the past two weeks as, while they weren't dominated by the Gloucester heavyweights, they did struggle against the 'Cherry and Whites' at the breakdown.

This week's opponents will pose a different type of threat to the sides Exeter have faced thus far as Wasps have one of the most star-studded backlines in Europe, and they are not afraid to give the ball width. As such, I reckon we'll see the hosts implement a territorial game plan and look to use the educated boot of fly-half Gareth Steenson and the siege gun left-foot of centre Henry Slade to keep them bedded deep in their opponents half. The aforementioned men will have to be deadly accurate with their kicks though as Wasps back three are lethal on the counter.

Last year's losing finalists come into this one off the back of a dramatic three-point home defeat to Harlequins. The defeat was mainly down to the Londoners ill-discipline with England flanker James Haskell receiving a yellow card after being taunted by his international teammate, Joe Marler. And while Marler is a known trouble-causer, whose actions last weekend also merited a yellow card, Haskell is an idiot for taking the bait and getting riled up to the extent where he grabbed Marler around the neck right in front of the referee.

Prior to last week's episode of ill-discipline, Wasps had actually got their campaign off to a decent start by beating Sale by 15 points in the opening round and following that up with a 14-point victory over Worcester.

The worry for coach Dai Young though is that while his side are scoring a boatload of points, they're shipping a lot as well. The men in yellow and black have conceded 69 points in their opening three games at an average of 23 points per match, And while these defensive stats hardly sound damning to Southern Hemisphere rugby fans, it must be remembered that the Aviva Premiership tends to produce lower scoring games than Super Rugby.

Looking at the Wasps' tactics, I can't see Young instructing his side to reign in their attacking intent. The Wasps mentor is an advocate of a ball-in-hand approach and he won't change his tune here. He does, however, face an issue in this regard as first choice ten Danny Cipriani, who is the catalyst for the majority of Wasps attacking play, has been ruled out through a knee ligament tear. His place in the starting fifteen is likely to be taken by the more methodical Jimmy Gopperth.

Verdict: Exeter 9/20
The departure of Kurtley Beale really has weakened the Wasps' armoury. The Aussie utility back could ignite the touchpaper at any given moment. And with Cipriani out as well, Wasps are really lacking creativity. I can see the visitors attacking game failing against a clinical Chiefs side this Sunday.

European Treble @7/1
Gloucester Win (Aviva Prem)
Zebre Win (Pro 14)
Montpellier Win (French Top 14)

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.net

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