Exeter excited for Perpignan challenge

Exeter assistant coach Ali Hepher believes the Chiefs will relish tackling a sizeable Challenge Cup task against Perpignan in France.

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The Chiefs are not in great form, launching their European campaign on the back of successive Aviva Premiership defeats against Harlequins and Gloucester, but Hepher thinks that will count for little.

"I think everyone at the club is excited about the game," said Hepher, ahead of a trip to Stade Aime Giral in Pool Four. "It's a tough game first up. But at the end of the day you want to pitch yourselves against the best sides, and they are right up there with the best sides in Europe."

Perpignan will be captained by French World Cup prop Nicolas Mas, who leads a side that includes Les Bleus centre David Marty and Wales international recruit James Hook at fly-half.

Hook's World Cup colleague Mike Phillips, meanwhile, is rested for his new club Bayonne's Pool Three appointment with Rovigo in Italy on Saturday, but Newport Gwent Dragons could have Lloyd Burns, Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau on duty against another Italian side, Cavalieri Prato.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Exeter's fellow Aviva Premiership challengers Wasps and Sale Sharks are also in action, with Wasps away to Bordeaux-Begles and Sale visiting Brive.

Wasps boss David Young has made four changes from the team beaten at home by Northampton last time out, with Richard Haughton, Chris Mayor, Zak Taulafo and Tom Lindsay all handed starts.

"Everybody wants to do well in Europe, and we are no different," Young said.

"We've had a look at Bordeaux and how they like to play, and they are a typically French side with a very strong set-piece and the ability to do damage if they get time and space.

"We will have to get parity up-front to make sure we are in with a chance of getting an away win, but we are looking forward to the challenge of another competition in a different environment."

Saturday's other game takes Agen to Spanish tournament newcomers La Vila, with Bucharest facing Crociati in Sunday's only Challenge Cup fixture.

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