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Bristol Bears take on Exeter Chiefs in festive West Country clash at Ashton Gate

Bristol Bears will be looking to make it a 100% record over the festive period as they take on Exeter Chiefs this weekend.

The Bears come into the game in great form. A difficult game in France against Stade Francais is the only blemish on their record this month, as they have recorded huge results against Gloucester, Lyon and Newcastle.

This time of year is often where families and friends come together, and it appears the star-studded Bristol side are also starting to connect with each other again.

New recruit Virimi Vakatawa was at his brilliant best against Newcastle, and his new centre partner Bernhard Janse van Resnburg is looking like he is starting to blossom in Bristol colours, as is Max Malins on his Ashton Gate return.

For the visit of the Chiefs, boss Pat Lam has come out all guns blazing as he names a team loaded with superstars. The afore mentioned Vakatawa, Janse van Rensburg and Malins are all named in a attacking looking backline alongside Callum Sheedy, Harry Randall, Rich Lane and Noah Heward.

Up front, Lam has picked some experienced heads with Steven Luatua skippering the side from six in the absence of Fitz Harding. Kyle Sinkler, Gabriel Oghre and Max Lahiff start in the front row, with James Dun and Joe Batley in the engine room. Magnus Bradbury and Dan Thomas join Luatua in the back-row.

Turning attention to the Chiefs, they will be hoping for one last Christmas present as they seek just their second away win this Premiership campaign.

Exeter have been cursed away from home in recent times, however they have won two of their last three games away from Sandy Park, including the famous last gasp effort against Toulon. It still remains the biggest question surrounding Rob Baxter’s side though as they now have more away games than home in the run in.

Last week they put on a spectacular performance in the first half, but had to stave off a late Leicester comeback to grab the bonus point. This was again a good showing of character from the young Chiefs side, and could prove vital in their hopes of getting another win on the road this weekend.

There is a fresh look to Rob Baxter’s side this week, with eight changes to the side that tamed the Tigers.

Three of those changes come in the back-line, as Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Olly Woodburn and Stu Townsend come into the side. The rekindled centre partnership of Ollie Devoto and Henry Slade keep their places in midfield. Harvey Skinner and Ben Hammersley complete the back division.

The pack also sees several changes to it, including an entirely new front-row of Nika Abuladze, Dan Frost and Josh Iosefa-Scott. Dafydd Jenkins again skippers the side from lock, and this week he finds himself alongside Rusi Tuima. Ross Vincent comes into the side at seven, and he features alongside Ethan Roots and Greg Fisilau in the back row.

Exeter have named a strong bench too, with Joe Hawkins, Jacques Vermeulen and Alec Hepburn all listed.