RECENT recruit Watisoni Votu and fit-again Kai Horstmann are set to make their Exeter Chiefs first team debuts this weekend.
Head coach Rob Baxter is expected to again make sweeping changes to his side for the LV= Cup clash at Bath on Saturday.
While he wants to rest the majority of the players who featured in the two bruising Heineken Cup encounters against Clermont Auvergne and Leinster, Baxter also intends to give a chance to other members of his squad.
That includes 27-year-old winger Votu, whose move to the Chiefs was only completed earlier this month.
He wasn't eligible for the Heineken Cup but could start at The Rec alongside No. 8 Horstmann, who joined the Chiefs last summer from Worcester.
While the 31-year-old has played in some A League matches, a hamstring injury has kept him out since October.
With England ace Tom Johnson joining James Phillips and Dave Ewers on the injured list, Horstmann's return to fitness could not have come at a better time to boost the back-row resources.
Baxter said: "For Kai it probably feels like a long time coming. It will be great to see him getting out there and playing and we can have a really good look at him within our structure.
"There's also an opportunity for Watisoni Votu now. He's registered and up and running and good to go.
"It will be good to see him in a competitive outing and it probably also feels to him like it's been a long time coming, and it has, but he's there now and it will be interesting to see how he goes.
"We're looking forward to seeing a few guys play and we expect they'll be a fresh group. That freshness and enthusiasm needs to be the driver for them."
As well as hoping Votu and Horstmann come through the Anglo-Welsh cup games against Bath and Northampton the following weekend, Baxter wants other players to be forcing their way into the side for the return to Aviva Premiership action at Sale on February 8.
Hoani Tui and Jack Nowell did just that in the last two LV= Cup matches in November and the Sandy Park chief hopes some of their colleagues can grab their chance this time around.
"We've had some tough Heineken Cup games but the last LV= Cup games also showed we've got a depth to the squad that we want to use and we want to develop those players," he said.
"If you look at the form of Jack Nowell coming out the last block of LV= games, we want to see a number of players coming out of these two LV= games bang on form so that they can really inject something into our Premiership side.
"We've also got to remember that there's a big thing for this group of players to play for. They've played really well in two LV= Cup games so far, they're unbeaten, and there could be bigger games down the road if they keep that going.
"We've got an eye on the bigger picture, which is making sure we're in absolutely top form in the business end of the season. Part of that is giving some people an opportunity now in the LV= Cup to be part of that on-form group."
As well as having a few injuries in the back row to deal with – which means the likes of Joel Conlon, Justin Blanchet and Sam Simmonds could feature again – Exeter also have issues at hooker.
Chris Whitehead and Simon Alcott are both out injured, so Baxter cannot risk either Neil Clark or Jack Yeandle picking up knocks or he would be down to the bare bones when they head to Sale next month.
That means Luke Cowan-Dickie, a recent convert from prop, is likely to get some game time in the No. 2 jersey, with older brother Tom also in contention.
Baxter said: "Luke Cowan-Dickie has played a bit as a hooker now for Plymouth so he gives us an option.
"Jack (Yeandle) has not had a great deal of game time, although with two fit hookers being involved in the Premiership we have to be careful how we use our resources.
"They'll share some game time and we'll come through knowing more about the depth we have at hooker."