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Chiefs side to face Gloucester

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It’s a common approach from Rob Baxter not to get carried away over his side’s fortunes. Whether it’s a win or whether it’s a loss, the Exeter Chiefs head coach is well versed in telling things as it is.

In the aftermath of his side’s New Year’s Day loss at Northampton Saints, there were no excuses from Baxter when he addressed the assembled media at Franklin’s Gardens.

His honest approach that his side may have "stolen a point" was a frank assessment following a disappointing first outing in 2016.

However, as he readies his troops for their latest battle against visiting Gloucester in the Aviva Premiership tomorrow (3pm), the Exeter leader remains fully focused on the long-term goals for his ambitious squad.

"The thing is it is very easy to not see things for what they are. You get so wrapped up in one result that you miss things," he said. "It's important not to overreact when you lose. Sometimes you consider changing everything when you lose despite being happy with everything a week earlier when you won.

"There were obviously elements we weren't pleased with and we'll look to improve those, but overall we haven't spent the whole week talking about what went wrong at Northampton.

"I don’t think you can look at clips and see the mistakes you make. I think it was more a lack of direct drive with our energy more than anything else. We fronted up in a lot of other areas and only conceded eight points and we didn’t look like conceding a lot of points during the game.

"There are certain elements that you can say were very good. If you go away in the Premiership and only concede eight points – no matter what the conditions – you have had a pretty good day at the office.

"Before Northampton, we had won five or six on the bounce, which is a pretty good run. The key to it and what good sides do is they don’t let those losses double up. If you lose, you lose tough and that happened at Northampton with a losing bonus point and when you come back home, you put in big performances and special performances and make sure you dominate and win the game.

"That’s what we have to look at this week. We haven’t over-analysed the Northampton game, we have looked at the opportunities we didn’t take and asked: did we at times look at each other and really try and take hold of the game? I think the answer is probably ‘no we didn’t’ and we have to make sure that doesn’t happen here."

Back on home soil, though, the Chiefs will look to defend their unbeaten home record, which now stretches to 12 months. Ironically, it was Gloucester who were the last side to win at Sandy Park, the Cherry & Whites departing that day with a narrow 26-25 success.

Even then the home side could have snatched victory, but Gareth Steenson’s last-gasp conversion attempt cannoned back off the post and it was the visitors who headed home with the points.

It was the just the latest in a series of keenly-contested affairs between the two clubs who, more often than not, cannot be separated by more than a score.

Baxter is not one to forgive and forget when it comes to home losses, and he called on his players to set the record straight against at a packed out Sandy Park.

"I think that’s a nice added incentive for us. If you get the chance to change things from last season, then you have to use it," he added. "It was a funny old game last season because for large parts of the game, you could never see us losing it and then all of a sudden, when the whistle has gone, we needed another point to get us over the line.

"I am not going to say we were complacent on the day because we had a lot of line breaks and beat a lot of defenders, but we didn’t really ram anything home.

"The best way to look at that loss is to make sure it doesn’t happen again and we control parts of the game that we need to control. Gloucester are a good side and have put together some decent results together, they are tough to beat and they are going well.

"They will come here with a good deal of confidence, but we should go out with confidence that we are tough at home, we are second in the Premiership and we should make that count."

Team news for the Chiefs sees Ollie Atkins come in for his first Premiership start at the expense of the injured Mitch Lees, while Julian Salvi is back at open-side in place of Tom Johnson. Behind, James Short is promoted from the bench to go on the wing, so England star Jack Nowell reverts to the centre with Italian Michele Campagnaro dropping down to the replacements.

On the bench, former Gloucester Academy youngster Jonny Hill is included in a first-team squad for the first time, prop Alec Hepburn returns after injury and the experienced Kai Horstmann offers back-row cover after some notable displays as skipper of the Braves.

15 Phil Dollman
14 Olly Woodburn
13 Jack Nowell
12 Ian Whitten
11 James Short
10 Gareth Steenson
9 Will Chudley

1 Ben Moon
2 Jack Yeandle (capt)
3 Tomas Francis
4 Ollie Atkins
5 Geoff Parling
6 Don Armand
7 Julian Salvi
8 Thomas Waldrom

16 Elvis Taione
17 Alec Hepburn
18 Moray Low
19 Jonny Hill
20 Kai Horstmann
21 Dave Lewis
22 Will Hooley
23 Michele Campagnaro

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