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Chiefs side to face Gloucester

Rob Baxter says it’s only right that the pressure is heaped on his Exeter Chiefs side every time they take to the field at Sandy Park.

Having lost only once on home soil last season – that was to eventual English and European champions Saracens – Baxter is keen for his team to create another solid home foundation from which they look to attack on all fronts.

Already this season Saracens again showed how he could be done, winning 34-13 in Devon last month, but a week later the Chiefs were back on song, seeing off Harlequins with a five-try blast in their 36-25 success.

The past fortnight has seen the Chiefs win at Bristol and go down by a point at Northampton Saints last weekend, but tomorrow the focus will be solely on the visit of Gloucester (3pm).

“To build any kind of foundation to your season, you have to be very strong at home,” said Baxter. “At the start of the season you go out with the aim that you want to win every home game and every away game, but as everyone knows the reality to that is a lot different.

“Right now we can’t say have built that foundation because we lost to Saracens, but we did put in a very good performance here against Harlequins and we expect to produce another big performance against Gloucester this weekend.

“As a team with ambitions like we have, it’s only right that we be prepared to put that pressure on ourselves if we want to be in that right half of the table. That’s why we should be prepared to come and demand a lot from ourselves every time we go into a game here.

“Obviously it’s not going to happen straight away because you have to work hard at all aspects of the game and we know from past experiences that Gloucester are a very good rugby side. However, we must be willing to put our mark on things as quickly as possible and show what we are capable of.”

With Baxter keen to see a rapid response from his team following their 20-19 loss at Northampton, he knows that they must not only start well, but maintain the standards they set of themselves for the whole 80 minutes, not just certain periods of the contest.

Having raced into a 13-0 lead at Franklin’s Gardens, the Chiefs were guilty of then surrendering their advantage by switching off for a 10-minute period in which the Saints profited with two converted tries of their own.

“As I often say, I always like to take a bigger picture view of things and deal with the issues we had in the game straight away,” explained the Chiefs leader. “We’ve done that this week and although we were disappointed with certain aspects of the game, a lot of what we did was pretty good.

“In the grand scheme of things was last week a killer result for us? ’No’

“Last season we had a good collection of points and one of those came from a losing bonus point up at Northampton. When looking at the two games, I saw a lot more progression in this year’s performance because we took more control of the game and we were right in it until the death.

“At the same time, though, we did let ourselves down a bit and when you get a lead like we did, you have to fight a lot harder than we did to keep hold of it. For ten minutes our focus drifted and we made a number of errors that allowed them back into it. From being in control, all of a sudden it was like it was 0-0 again. After that we didn’t really seize control of the game and it came down to a kicking contest in which Northampton knocked over the last penalty.

“Yes, it was hugely frustrating come the end, but looking at the guys this week I think they realise where they can put things right and we’re looking for them to show the character and their quality this weekend.”

Standing in the way of the Chiefs tomorrow will be a Cherry & Whites outfit, who themselves are looking for answers following a disappointing start to the season. Three home defeats have been described as “unacceptable” by their Director of Rugby, David Humphreys, but they have claimed an away win with a notable scalp at Sale Sharks.

Baxter acknowledges the threat posed by the visitors, as well as adding in the importance of points for both sides. He continued: “The truth is with any Premiership game there are little battles you have to win – and the first one is who can bring the biggest physicality, the most intensity and who can force their game onto the opposition first.

“What we’ll see at the weekend are two sides who are going to go at it full tilt in a bid to gain some important league points. If you look at games between us over the years, they are always humdingers of matches, and I expect this weekend to be no different.”

Team news for the Chiefs see Luke Cowan-Dickie and Julian Salvi return up front in place of Jack Yeandle and Kai Horstmann, while behind Sam Hill comes back into the centre for Ollie Devoto.

15 Lachie Turner
14 Olly Woodburn
13 Henry Slade
12 Sam Hill
11 Ian Whitten
10 Gareth Steenson (capt)
9 Will Chudley

1 Ben Moon
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie
3 Greg Holmes
4 Mitch Lees
5 Geoff Parling
6 Dave Dennis
7 Julian Salvi
8 Thomas Waldrom

16 Jack Yeandle
17 Carl Rimmer
18 Harry Williams
19 Damian Welch
20 Kai Horstmann
21 Dave Lewis
22 Ollie Devoto
23 Max Bodilly

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