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Chiefs side to face Dragons

Rob Baxter says his Exeter Chiefs side must ready themselves for a "full blooded" encounter when they travel to Newport this evening in their final pre-season friendly against the Dragons at Rodney Parade (7:30pm).

Having warmed up with home wins over Scarlets (45-3) and Ulster Rugby (25-19), Baxter is hoping this final engagement will serve as the perfect warm-up for his players ahead of their Aviva Premiership opener at Wasps on Sunday week.

And unlike the two previous games, the Chiefs will travel with a more refined playing squad – similar to that of a normal match-day – to help in their preparations for the trip to the Ricoh Arena.

That said, Baxter insists those not involved in tonight’s clash should not see this as a sign they won’t figure against the Midlanders in Round One, instead he has put the pressure on those travelling to Wales to prove their worth.

"We will look at Friday more like an 80-minute game," said Baxter. "A lot of the guys will extend their game time and we’ll take an extended bench, but that will be more precautionary so that nobody gets over extended.

"I’m expecting the guys who play to go out, put markers down and show they want to be the players who want to feature at Wasps. The guys not involved have been told the team that goes to Newport is not set in stone.

"It’s an opportunity for those guys to cement their places within the squad, but on the negative side there is an awful lot of opportunity for them to get it wrong and lose their way. That’s why this is a very important game, as will training next week, and it will be up to all of the guys to get us ready for the start of the Premiership."

The Chiefs, however, have impressed so far during pre-season and Baxter is hoping for more of the same from those in action in the Principality.

"A lot of what we’ve done has been very good and we’ve been impressed with a lot of what the guys have done," added Baxter.  "Now, though, it’s a case of stepping it up another level and getting ourselves ready for the start of the season.

"We’ve built pre-season around having some home fixtures and then finishing with a tough away trip to Newport. We have been there before and we’ve never had an easy game there. I’ve no doubt it will be a full blooded encounter because like us they are revving up for an important game of their own against Ulster next week.

"We know from the past that our tests against the Pro 12 sides in pre-season are always very worthwhile. I remember our first season in the Premiership, we played the Scarlets and Cardiff Blues and that really set the scene for us. They were two tough games of rugby and it’s been like that for a lot of the years since.

"As I said, we need to step things up a bit and just fine tune a few areas of our game. Last season showed we are a very good side and that a lot of what we do is the right thing to do. Yes, I want us to show a reaction to losing the final, but more in the sense that I want the guys to report back – like they have – focused, determined and prepared to work hard in everything they do.

"We’ve seen that so far throughout pre-season and these games and now I want us to carry that into the season."

For those supporters unable to go to tonight’s game, you can keep up-to-date with everything on the club’s official Twitter and Facebook pages.

15 Phil Dollman
14 Olly Woodburn
13 Ollie Devoto
12 Sam Hill
11 Ian Whitten
10 Henry Slade
9 Will Chudley

1 Ben Moon
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie
3 Harry Williams
4 Mitch Lees
5 Damian Welch
6 Don Armand (capt)
7 Julian Salvi
8 Thomas Waldrom

16 Jack Yeandle
17 Alec Hepburn
18 Greg Holmes
19 Geoff Parling
20 Dave Dennis
21 Dave Lewis
22 Gareth Steenson
23 James Short

Extended Bench: Elvis Taione, Moray Low, Tomas Francis, Jonny Hill, Kai Horstmann, Haydn Thomas, Will Hooley, Lachie Turner, Max Bodilly.

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