You know you’re not in a bad position player depth-wise when you can turn to England’s second-highest try-scorer and world rugby’s most-talked about winger straight after the Six Nations.
The inclusion of Jonny May on one wing and Louis Rees-Zammit on the other for the visit of double champions Exeter is a powerful statement of intent from the Cherry & Whites.
While May wasn’t among the tries as much as he’d have liked in the Six Nations, his spectacular diving finish against Italy was one of the highlights. Whilst Welsh wing sensation Rees-Zammit enhanced his already glowing reputation with four tries, again involving some fine finishes.
But will they get the ball? Exeter’s fondness for dominating possession is well known and the Cherry & Whites will need a foothold in the game, at scrum and lineout, if they are going to give their two star wide men some bullets to fire.
No team has lost more lineouts in the Premiership this season, yet this is counter-balanced by the fact the Chiefs are top for scrums lost.
Discipline will be another key issue, and that’s been a problem for Gloucester this season. Their tally of 14 cards (11 yellow and three red) is the highest in the league and Exeter are ruthless enough to punish any team if they have all 15 men on the park, let alone are a man or two down.
However, you cannot help but look at the Chiefs line-up and think that this is a golden opportunity for Gloucester to take their scalp. True enough, the Chiefs second/third string did wonders towards the end of last season, pulling off some great wins, notable away to Bristol, but the league was in a different place back then and Gloucester need to seize the chance in front of them.
Gloucester are undoubtedly stronger for the 12 changes made by head coach George Skivington in the wake of last week’s heavy loss at Harlequins, when they elected to rest some frontline players.
On the other hand, the Chiefs line-up looks as weak as it’s been for some time, on paper at least, which is why Gloucester are conceding three points on the handicap.
In the Chiefs pack, Sean Lonsdale is the lone survivor from last weekend’s 47-31 home win over Leicester Tigers, while behind Harvey Skinner, Facundo Cordero and Olly Woodburn also remain in situ as DoR Rob Baxter concentrates on putting a fully-loaded side out for the visit of Lyon in Europe the following weekend.
Gloucester are averaging 23 points per home game in the league this season and you’d fancy them to improve on that against a makeshift side, especially with the attacking arsenal at their disposal., which is why our recommended bet is for the Cherry & Whites to score over 3.5 tries (8/11).
Gloucester: 15. Santiago Carreras, 14. Louis Rees-Zammit, 13. Billy Twelvetrees, 12. Mark Atkinson, 11. Jonny May, 10. George Barton, 9. Willi Heinz, 1. Val Rapava-Ruskin, 2. Henry Walker, 3. Fraser Balmain, 4. Ed Slater, 5. Matias Alemanno, 6. Jordy Reid, 7. Lewis Ludlow (c), 8. Ruan Ackermann.
Replacements: 16. Santiago Socino, 17. Alex Seville, 18. Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19. Freddie Clarke, 20. Ben Morgan, 21. Jack Clement, 22. Charlie Chapman, 23. Charlie Sharples.
Exeter: 15 Josh Hodge, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Dan John, 12 Corey Baldwin, 11 Facundo Cordero, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 1 James Kenny, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 3 Marcus Street, 4 Sean Lonsdale, 5 Tom Price, 6 Don Armand, 7 Richard Capstick, 8 Rus Tuima.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Danny Southworth, 18 Alfie Petch, 19 Will Witty, 20 Charlie Wright, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Arthur Relton , 23 James Short