Heineken Cup: Fetu'u Vainikolo set for Exeter debut against Cardiff Blues

Last Updated: 13/10/13 12:13pm

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Fetu'u Vainikolo: Will make Exeter debut against Cardiff this weekend

Fetu'u Vainikolo: Will make Exeter debut against Cardiff this weekend

Sky Bet

Tongan international Fetu'u Vainikolo will make his first start for Exeter in Sunday's Heineken Cup clash against Cardiff Blues at Sandy Park.

Chiefs will also head into the contest buoyed by an impressive victory at Gloucester in their last outing.

Team news for the Chiefs sees head coach Rob Baxter forced to tweak his backline due to injuries sustained in the past week. Former Blues' winger Tom James rolled an ankle in training, so he misses out and Vainikolo comes in for his first competitive start.

The experienced Jason Shoemark returns at centre in place of Sam Hill, who picked up a knock in the latter stages of the game at Kingsholm. The promotion of Tongan international Vainikolo means his spot on the bench is filled by Fijian powerhouse Sireli Naqelevuki.

Meanwhile, centre Dafydd Hewitt is recalled to the starting line-up as Cardiff Blues.

Challenge

Hewitt, who last week made his 100th appearance for the region, is named at inside centre as Cory Allen switches to outside centre for the Pool 2 opener in Devon.

Director of Rugby Phil Davies makes no further changes to the side that defeated Edinburgh last time out, with hooker Matthew Rees again captaining from the front row and making his 50th appearance in the Heineken Cup.

Fellow hooker Marc Breeze is named among the replacements and there is also a call-up for Richard Smith who could make his first appearance of the season from the bench.

Blues have won three of their last four Heineken Cup encounters with clubs across the Anglo-Welsh border.

However, Davies is aware of the size of the challenge facing his Blues against an Exeter side that warmed up for Europe with a convincing win over Gloucester last weekend.

Blues will be missing Owen Williams, who is ruled out after suffering a hamstring injury last week against Edinburgh, but Davies is confident a new-look midfield partnership of Hewitt and Cory Allen can shine.

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis; 1 Brett Sturgess, 2 Chris Whitehead, 3 Hoani Tui, 4 Dean Mumm, 5 Damian Welch, 6 Tom Johnson, 7 Ben White, 8 Dave Ewers.

Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Carl Rimmer, 19 Don Armand, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Sireli Naqelevuki.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams; 1 Gethin Jenkins, 2 Matthew Rees (c), 3 Tau Filise, 4 Bradley Davies, 5 Filo Paulo, 6 Josh Navidi, 7 Sam Warburton, 8 Andries Pretorius.

Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Richard Smith.

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