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Thomas Young returns to boost Wasps for Exeter clash

Thomas Young will bolster Wasps' bid for a first-ever win at Sandy Park in Sunday's Aviva Premiership clash with Exeter Chiefs.

The 24-year-old flanker can show Wales what they are missing after Rob Howley released the uncapped back-rower from his Six Nations match squad to face England.

Young's return offsets James Haskell's absence on England duty, while Wasps can field a fine array of attacking talent behind the scrum.

Kurtley Beale starts at full-back with Danny Cipriani, Kyle Eastmond and Jimmy Gopperth forming an attacking midfield trio - and all with Springboks star Willie Le Roux still yet to add to that mix.

Le Roux could start training as early as next week, but Wasps' rugby director Dai Young remains excited by the strength of the squad he can field to face Exeter.

"Sandy Park is never an easy place to go and, having never won there it would be nice to change that this weekend, but we are very aware of how difficult it will be for us on Sunday," said Dai Young, whose side topped the league table heading into the weekend's fixtures.

"Exeter are a great side and they have hit a very good run of form recently, losing just two of their last 13 games in all competitions, so we will have to hit the ground running as we go into this very difficult block of Aviva Premiership games.

"We're really pleased to see a large number of our guys representing their country in the Six Nations and that has given a number of players here the opportunity to step up this weekend.

"The nature of the Aviva Premiership means that you can't rely on 15 or even 23 players and we're confident going into Sunday's game that the players who have been given an opportunity will take it with both hands."

Academy product Sam Simmonds will make his Premiership debut for Exeter, the 20-year-old number eight joining Don Armand and Dave Dennis in the back-row.

Gareth Steenson will captain Exeter from fly-half, while the Chiefs remain hopeful Henry Slade will be back from England duty to take a seat on the bench.

The versatile playmaker is a travelling reserve for England's Six Nations clash against Wales in Cardiff but should be released for club duty the following day.

Exeter boss Rob Baxter challenged his side to hang onto their top-four status by pulling off a victory against the league's form side so far this term.

Baxter admitted being impressed by Wasps' determination to build on last season, where they reached the last four in both the league and Champions Cup.

Exeter were last year's beaten Premiership finalists and lost to Wasps in the European quarter-finals - but Baxter admitted his side took a while to push past any lingering disappointment at the start of this campaign.

"The Wasps Premiership animal is very successful and they are the team everyone is trying to chase down," said Baxter.

"What has impressed me about them this season is that they were genuinely upset to get knocked out of two semi-finals last season and that they went away in pre-season and clearly did something about it, whereas that was something we perhaps didn't do. Now we realise that, we are the team trying to chase them down.

"We've now got up to speed, we're driving forward, and now we have to show that we weren't happy to have lost a Premiership final."


From Belfast Telegraph