Preview: Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins

Date published: September 16 2016

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter has made three changes to his starting line-up for Saturday's Premiership clash with Harlequins at Sandy Park.

Mitch Lees comes into the pack at lock for Damian Welch while, in the back-line, Gareth Steenson will get his first start of the season at fly-half.

This means Henry Slade shunts to inside centre at the expense of Sam Hill, while Olly Woodburn returns on the wing with Lachie Turner moving to full-back in place of the injured Phil Dollman.

After back-to-back losses against Wasps and Saracens, Baxter’s men find themselves rooted to the foot of the table with just a solitary point to their name.

Baxter knows the Londoners will pose another creditable threat to his team, but he wants his troops to rise in battle and replicate the kind of performances of last term when they finished as runners-up in the top flight.

“I do think there is a bit of pressure on us but I think the pressure is that it’s an important game of Premiership rugby,” he said.

“I think that’s what we need to focus on – let’s just focus on this one weekend, not what’s happened before or what might happen in the future, but actually, this is a really important fixture, so let’s get out there and really enjoy playing in a Premiership rugby game at home at Sandy Park.

“That’s really going to be my message to the team – to stop thinking about everything else and worry about this one game and us showing our best qualities this weekend. That’s the message that was very good for us last season, as that’s how we approached the season – we just enjoyed each challenge as it came and threw ourselves into it and that’s what I want to do this weekend.

“It’s a challenge and it’s a slightly different challenge as we haven’t won yet in the Premiership but that should make it a bit more exciting and bring a bit more out of us and show a bit more character.”

Meanwhile, full-back Mike Brown, inside centre Winston Stanley, left wing Charlie Walker and fly-half Tim Swiel make their first starts of the season for Harlequins.

Among the replacements, first year Academy fly-half James Lang will look to make his debut for the club.

Speaking ahead of the match Harlequins' director of rugby John Kingston said: “We have made a number of changes to the squad for Saturday’s trip to Sandy Park, some tactical and others due to minor knocks.

“Harlequins has a tremendous respect for everything that Exeter have achieved in recent years, and we are well aware of how difficult it is to win down there.”

Form: Exeter Chiefs prop up the Premiership table having lost both encounters so far, at Wasps and at home to Saracens. The Chiefs have not lost successive matches at Sandy Park since September 2014. Harlequins recorded a narrow victory over Bristol in Round One of the Premiership and went down at Sale last weekend. The Londoners' only away victory in any tournament since early January was 32-25 at London Irish on 1 May. Exeter have achieved the season’s double over Harlequins for the past two years with 'Quins most recent victory over the Devonians being 30-29 at Sandy Park in May 2014. 

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon 
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Dave Dennis, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Sam Hill, 23 James Short

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Danny Care (c), 8 Jack Clifford, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill, 4 Sam Twomey, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Joe Marler 
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 George Merrick, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 James Lang, 23 Alofa Alofa

Date: Saturday, September 16
Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 15:00 BST (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix, Thomas Fole
TMO: David Sainsbury