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Premiership Rugby

Baxter ready for Leeds clash

Baxter ready for Leeds clash

Unlike many of the Aviva Premiership Rugby sides Exeter Chiefs will face this season, Leeds Carnegie are familiar foes and head coach Rob Baxter has warned of their threat ahead of Saturday’s trip to Sandy Park (3pm).

Over the years Baxter has become well versed in facing the Yorkshire outfit, having tackled them nine times during his playing career and a further four as a coach.

During that period there have been some ding-dong encounters between the sides, most notably the two most recent games during the 2008/09 season when Leeds claimed a league double over the Chiefs on their way to regaining Premiership status.

Fast forward to present day, however, and the Chiefs head into this latest match-up not only ahead of Neil Back’s side in the current league standings, but also unbeaten in their past three league and cup fixtures.

Last Friday’s 23-23 draw with Cardiff Blues in the LV= Cup followed on from a 29-9 victory over London Wasps in the same competition, plus a memorable 23-9 success at Saracens in the Premiership.

The Saracens win was Exeter’s third in the top flight and puts them crucially 12 points ahead of winless Leeds heading into this weekend’s crunch encounter.

Baxter, however, is well aware that Leeds are hurting and that they will head to the Westcountry looking to target their first victory of the season against the league newcomers.

“Our paths have crossed regularly over the years,” said the coach. “We know it’s going to be a tough game on Saturday. We know Leeds are targeting this game almost as a must-win for them.

“For us it’s about hitting the pitch in the right physical condition, but also getting the mentality of how we want to play right. We’ve got to go out there and play like it’s a do or die, must win game for us. If we get that mentality right everything else will look after itself.”

Exeter’s coach believes having the right mentality for this week and that of next week’s visit of Sale Sharks is crucial to his side’s overall seasonal aims – and believes the focus of his squad against Cardiff may have been slightly distracted such was the importance of these two upcoming games.

“With this being our first season in the Premiership I can understand if there was a little distraction at the back of the players’ mind that ‘next week we’ve got Leeds and that’s a very important game for us’.

“As long as that’s our mentality and the reason for us being a little off last Friday was because this game was looming around the corner then that’s not necessarily a negative for us.”

Having not risked a number of his walking wounded against the Blues a week ago, Baxter makes four changes to his starting XV with Bryan Rennie, Andrew Higgins, James Scaysbrook and Chris Budgen all returning.

On the bench Chad Slade is also back as he was not picked by Samoa for their international against England at Twickenham. He will be joined by Kiwi newcomer Jason Shoemark, who will make his Premiership debut should he be called upon at any stage.


15 Luke Arscott
14 Andrew Higgins
13 Phil Dollman
12 Bryan Rennie
11 Mark Foster
10 Ryan Davis
9 Haydn Thomas
1 Brett Sturgess
2 Simon Alcott
3 Chris Budgen
4 Tom Hayes (capt)
5 James Hanks
6 Tom Johnson
7 James Scaysbrook
8 Richard Baxter


16 Chris Whitehead
17 Ben Moon
18 Hoani Tui
19 Dave Gannon
20 Chad Slade
21 Garrick Cowley
22 Ignacio Mieres
23 Jason Shoemark


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