Fixtures - Top Bar

Chiefs side to face Northampton Saints

With just five rounds of the scheduled Aviva Premiership remaining, Rob Baxter has challenged his Exeter Chiefs side to go "flat out" in their attempts to secure a place in the end of season play-offs.

Having occupied a position in the top two for much of the season, it’s these final few weeks where the Devonians can really underline their credentials, starting with a big performance against Northampton Saints at Sandy Park this Sunday (3pm).

Buoyed by last weekend’s victory over the Newcastle Falcons, Baxter has tried to deflect any so-called pressure off his players by insisting they simply go out and enjoy the experience of taking the Chiefs into unchartered waters.

"We are not looking too far ahead," said Baxter. "At this stage of the season the important thing is you don’t look too far ahead, it’s more week by week. The time for planning and plotting and staging your way through games has gone now, it’s more about getting your head down and enjoying every experience.

"If you are second in the table and not enjoying every occasion, especially here at Sandy Park, that’s what you are getting wrong. I don’t want the players worrying about where they will end up at the end of the season, I want them going flat out against Northampton, because it’s going to be a great game.

"I want them to make the most of this 80 minutes because you’re time as a professional sportsman is limited, so I want them to maximise this time and this opportunity and look back on it with a bit of pride."

Certainly the Chiefs can be proud of a great deal this season, but it was at Franklin’s Gardens on New Year’s Day where they turned in one of their most disappointing displays to date. On that occasion, the Saints edged a somewhat drab encounter 8-3.

Although defeated, Baxter took heart from the fact his side did depart with a losing bonus point, but he is expecting a much improved performance when the two clubs meet again this weekend.

Baxter added: "First and foremost what you have to look at over the course of the season is how you are collecting points and I actually think a close lost at Northampton, having only conceded eight points, isn’t a terrible result especially following up a five-day turnaround in a tough fixture against Sale where we collected five points.

"On it’s own I don’t think the game up there stands for too much, but obviously we want to play well down here because we are at home.  As I said, the fixture at Northampton does not hold much for either side because they will probably think they didn’t play great that day either, it’s more about focusing on ourselves.

"At this time of year it’s about getting the right players on the pitch and having them in the right condition and the right frame of mind and getting out their to win some games. Potentially, it’s an eight-point game given where both sides are in the table, but the important thing is we relish it and let it bring the best out of us and we focus on this 80 minutes. Let’s not worry about what people are talking about in the future, the rewards will come depending on how we play week by week and how we train day by day."

Keeping the focus of his team is an integral part of Baxter’s daily routine and as the season heads towards a dramatic climax, the experienced Exeter leader is well aware of what is on offer in the coming weeks and months.

"Let’s gets excited and enjoy these big occasions," he declared. "If we underperform because lads are nervous and worried about dropping out of top four, then obviously I am getting something wrong. However, if we are going out making mistakes because we are playing hard and trying to win the game, I can happily deal with that. That’s the important thing with our mentality, we turn up to play and win the game."

Certainly Exeter’s never-say-die attitude was underlined just a week ago against the lowly Falcons, who for an hour an least stayed in contention with the high-flying Chiefs. However, when push came to shove in the latter stages, it was the home side who pulled away, claiming late scores through Sam Hill and Elvis Taione to seal all five points.

"Newcastle were dogged and they stood in front of us," said Baxter. "However, we still scored four tries. We had two thirds possession and territory and the majority of the game was being played in one area of the pitch, namely Newcastle half.

"They scored two breakaway tries which kept the scoreboard tight, but what pleased me the most was our energy and our endeavour. We dominated huge parts of the game and in the end we came away with five points. Anyone who’s says five-point wins at this stage of the season aren’t the most valuable thing are getting things seriously wrong."

Despite collecting a maximum haul last time out, the Chiefs do make changes to their winning formula. In the pack, Ollie Atkins and Dave Ewers are recalled ahead of Lewis Stevenson and Julian Salvi; Dave Lewis is given the nod at scrum-half ahead of Will Chudley, while behind James Short’s inclusion means Ian Whitten reverts back into the centre alongside Henry Slade.

That in turn means Sam Hill drops to the bench where he will be joined for the first time by Australian international Lachie Turner, who is poised to make his debut for the club since arriving last month.

15 Phil Dollman
14 Olly Woodburn
13 Henry Slade
12 Ian Whitten
11 James Short
10 Gareth Steenson
9 Dave Lewis

1 Ben Moon
2 Jack Yeandle (capt)
3 Harry Williams
4 Ollie Atkins
5 Geoff Parling
6 Dave Ewers
7 Don Armand
8 Thomas Waldrom

16 Elvis Taione
17 Alec Hepburn
18 Carl Rimmer
19 Lewis Stevenson
20 Julian Salvi
21 Will Chudley
22 Sam Hill
23 Lachie Turner

Latest News

Match Reaction: Newcastle Falcons 16 Worcester Warriors 14

Worcester Warriors director of rugby Gary Gold was left stunned and disappointed after Newcastle Falcons scrum-half Sonatane Takulua struck late…

Match Reaction: Harlequins 32 Wasps 13

Harlequins fly-half Nick Evans signed off from the Stoop with a majestic performance as he kicked 22 points against Wasps…

Match Report: Newcastle Falcons 16 Worcester Warriors 14

Sonatane Takulua scored all of Newcastle Falcons' points - including a late converted try - to down a spirited Worcester…

Match Report: Harlequins 32 Wasps 13

Nick Evans capped a memorable final appearance for Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop by scoring 22 points as they downed…

Alafoti Faosiliva commits future to Worcester Warriors

Samoa international Alafoti Faosiliva will continue his Sixways career after committing his future to the Club. The 31-year-old arrived at…

Alafoti Faosiliva

AUDIO: Preview of this weekend’s Aviva Premiership action

It's the penultimate round of regular-season matches in the Aviva Premiership this weekend - Russell Hargreaves has the details.

Saracens name side to face Bristol Rugby

Saracens have named their team to face Bristol in round 21 of the Aviva Premiership on Saturday at Allianz Park,…

Schalk Brits

Northampton Saints team news versus Exeter Chiefs

The Northampton Saints team has been named for the Aviva Premiership Round 21 trip to Exeter. Injuries to Louis Picamoles…

JJ Hanrahan

Garvey to start for Bath Rugby in West Country derby

Matt Garvey will make his first start for Bath Rugby since January in the West Country Aviva Premiership derby against…

Matt Garvey

Gloucester Rugby make just one change for trip to Bath

Gloucester Rugby keep faith with the majority of the side that triumphed in La Rochelle last weekend, making just one…

Mariano Galarza

Exeter Chiefs side to face Northampton Saints

Rob Baxter says it’s vital his Exeter Chiefs grasp every opportunity afforded to them as they look to maintain their…

Gareth Steenson

Leicester Tigers team news for final home game

Graham Kitchener and Adam Thompstone will make their 100th starting appearances in a Leicester Tigers shirt in the final home…

Adam Thompstone

Team News for Bristol Rugby to face Saracens

Olly Robinson returns to the starting line-up as Bristol Rugby face reigning Premiership champions Saracens on Saturday (3pm KO). The…

Olly Robinson

Four Changes For Sharks Ahead of Tigers Clash

Sale Sharks have named their side to take on Leicester Tigers this Saturday at Welford Road in the Aviva Premiership…

Josh Charnley

Callum Chick not given up on top-six finish for Newcastle Falcons

Promising Newcastle Falcons flanker Callum Chick hasn't given up on helping his side qualify for a Champions Cup place next…

Jack Singleton still buzzing after baptism of fire at Worcester Warriors

Jack Singleton admits he never expected to get as much Aviva Premiership Rugby game time as he has had this…