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LV= Cup Preview: Leicester Tigers v Exeter Chiefs

Leicester Tigers scrum-half Sam Harrison is aware of the challenge facing his side as reigning champions Exeter Chiefs visit Welford Road on Sunday for their LV= Cup semi-final clash.

Head coach Richard Cockerill has rung the changes with 13 different starters from last week’s Aviva Premiership Rugby victory over Newcastle Falcons with just Laurence Pearce and captain Sebastian De Chaves retained.

Tigers show a blend of experience – through the likes of Brad Thorne, Matt Smith and Blane Scully – and youth as they target their first LV= Cup final since their 2012 victory.

And Harrison will look to make an impact from the bench in what the 24-year-old expects to be a tight contest.

“It will be a very close game – both clubs really want to win,” he said. “Exeter won the cup last year, as we saw, and they are obviously a very good team as well, with a very good squad.

“They have been good in the Premiership and they are obviously showing that now and that tends to rebound down into the LV= Cup.

“If you have got a good Premiership squad, you have got a good LV= squad. The focus is purely on this LV= Cup period and hopefully the lads will get some good game time.”

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter has changed 14 of his starting XV from last week’s 74-19 Aviva Premiership Rugby win against London Welsh, with wing Tom James the only survivor.

Veteran Ceri Sweeney skippers the side from fly-half as the Chiefs have opted to rest many of the front-line players whose recent performances have propelled the side to second in the league, as well as the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup.

Exeter will not lack for experience though, with the likes of Moray Low, Kai Horstmann and Haydn Thomas coming back in along with prop Brett Sturgess, who is relishing a run out at Welford Road.

“Any side who pull on a Leicester shirt at home are going to want to go out and perform,” said the tighthead prop. “They may not have been at their best but they’re still there knocking on the door in the league, they’re only a couple of points behind us.

“Regardless of who they put out they’ve got a strong squad. It’s always a test going to Welford Road whatever competition you’re playing in because they’ve got the crowd, the passion, and it’s always a big occasion.

“They’re not playing like they have and are missing quite a lot of players, but that just shows you what it means to those guys to play for Leicester, and it’s what we’ve come to expect when you play Leicester at home.”

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