TOM LINDSAY is set for his first Premiership start for Bristol against Exeter Chiefs on Saturday (3pm KO).
The hooker is one of six changes to Pat Lam’s side for the Sandy Park clash, with only Jordan Crane and Chris Vui remaining in the pack from the team that overcame Newcastle last weekend.
Jake Woolmore and Lewis Thiede come into the front row, while Ed Holmes and Joe Joyce form the second row partnership. Vui switches to blindside flanker and Jack Lam is selected at openside after recovering from a rib injury.
Head coach Pat Lam said: “Off the back of a positive week of preparation, there is real excitement about Saturday’s game and testing ourselves against the league leaders on their home ground.
“It’s a huge challenge and one we are relishing. We need to be relentless in our physicality and approach the game with the right mindset from minute one.”
Bears include Andy Uren among the replacements and the Academy graduate could make his 50th competitive appearance for the club if he features.
Exeter will welcome back Luke Cowan-Dickie, Dave Dennis and Jonny Hill to their pack, while behind Henry Slade is brought into the midfield alongside Ian Whitten and Phil Dollman gets the nod at full-back.
Although back in full training, England and British Lions winger Jack Nowell is not included for this weekend’s match, but he will get a run-out for the Exeter Braves in their Premiership Rugby Shield clash the same day away to Gloucester.
Exeter boss is hoping his side can bounce back from their narrow 31-28 defeat at Northampton Saints last weekend.
“I thought Northampton trend up in a fantastic frame of mind last week to really fight for everything in the game,” said the Chiefs’ director of rugby. “And although we certainly had more than a foot hold in the game – and we felt we had ways of winning the game – it was probably just one of those nights that just slipped away from us.
“We were hugely dominant in certain areas, like the scrum, and our possessions and territory stats were huge, but when it actually came to us being clinical and on the edge of where wanted to play, we were just a bit off. Looking back at the game this week, I think what disappointed us the most was that we didn’t really go up there and demand or force the win.
“That said, I’ve also said to the players that we have to look at the bigger picture. We are now halfway through the Premiership season, we’ve got more points at this stage than we have collected before; we’re top of the league; and over the last five games we are the side who have collected more points than anyone else. For me, there are lots of positives for us to take, so I do find it off when people are saying we are dipping in form, yet when you look at the stats, we are the form team based on points gathered.”
Bristol Bears: 15. Charles Piutau; 14. Luke Morahan, 13. Will Hurrell, 12. Siale Piutau (co-capt), 11. Tom Pincus; 10. Ian Madigan 9. Harry Randall; 1. Jake Woolmore, 2. Tom Lindsay, 3. Lewis Thiede, 4. Ed Holmes, 5. Joe Joyce, 6. Chris Vui, 7. Jack Lam, 8. Jordan Crane (co-capt). Reps: 16. Harry Thacker, 17. Yann Thomas, 18. John Afoa, 19. George Smith, 20. Dan Thomas, 21. Andy Uren, 22. Callum Sheedy, 23. Piers O’Conor.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Gareth Steenson (capt), 9 Jack Maunder, 1 Ben Moon, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie
3 Harry Williams, 4 Dave Dennis, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Sam Skinner, 7 Sean Lonsdale, 8 Matt Kvesic. Reps: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Wilhelm Van der Sluys, 21 Nic White, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Ollie Devoto