Preview: Exeter v Bath

Date published: February 24 2012

Exeter have made two changes to their XV, with Chris Whitehead at hooker for Neil Clark and Peter Short in at lock ahead of Aly Muldowney.

Rob Baxter has made two changes to his Exeter XV, with Chris Whitehead at hooker for Neil Clark and Peter Short in at lock ahead of Aly Muldowney.

Short is one of three former Bath players in the home ranks, joining Clark and James Scaysbrook in the line-up for Saturday's fixture at Sandy Park.

To date there remain two challenges that Baxter's squad have yet to overcome. One is failing to beat London Irish in the top flight, whilst the other has been they have yet to record a triumph over Bath. It's a statistic Baxter is keen to address sooner rather than later – and with the Exiles next up at Sandy Park next month – hopes are high that both scalps can be claimed on home turf.

“I don't think we've actually played to our potential against them,” said Baxter ahead of this fixture.

“They [Bath] are a tough side, they have got a very good defensive record, and that's managed to turn aside a lot of our attack in the three Premiership games so far.

“They have capitalised very well on all of our mistakes and that comes with a little bit of experience. They have got a very experienced side and they made the most of our errors, and we've made a few too many and given up a few too many penalties. That's always relieved the pressure on them enough to prevent turning the screw and putting them in difficult places in the game.

“I think that will be the key for us this week. We need to cut out the silly errors and any indiscipline. We must not allow them an easy start and make them work hard for everything they get. When we're playing like that, and that's the kind of mood we're in, we're a tough side to play against. That's what we've been doing for a few weeks, we're not conceding tries and we're playing good pressure rugby.”

Meanwhile, Matt Carraro returns to the starting line-up for Bath as they look to get back to winning ways in the Aviva Premiership away to the Chiefs.

Carraro is named at outside centre, with Olly Barkley on the inside. Matt Banahan shifts to the right wing, with Tom Biggs, who scored a hat-trick on Bath's last visit to Sandy Park, starting on the left. Sam Vesty lines up at full-back, as Tom Heathcote and Michael Claassens continue at half-back.

There is just one change in the forwards, with Dave Attwood coming back into the second row to partner Ryan Caldwell. Nathan Catt and Anthony Perenise scrum down either side of Lee Mears, and Ben Skirving, Francois Louw and Simon Taylor complete the pack.

There is also a return to the matchday squad for the first time since September for Carl Fearns, who is named amongst the replacements.

Form: Exeter Chiefs' only defeat in their last seven matches in all competitions was 3-31 at home to Bath in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 5 February. The Chiefs won their most recent game at Sandy Park but have not managed successive Aviva Premiership Rugby wins at the venue since September. Bath Rugby's four game winning run ended at home to local rivals Gloucester on Saturday. Bath's last away game was also at Sandy Park when their 31-3 win on that occasion in the Anglo-Welsh Cup ended a six game losing run on the road. Exeter's only previous competitive win against Bath came in the 1st round of the John Player Cup at the old County Ground in January 1978.

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Nic Sestaret, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Peter Short, 4 Tom Hayes (capt), 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Chris Whitehead, 1 Hoani Tui.
Replacements: 16 Neil Clark, 17 Chris Budgen, 18 John Andress, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 James Phillips, 21 Kevin Barrett, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Bryan Rennie.

Bath: 15 Sam Vesty, 14 Matt Banahan, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Francois Louw (capt), 6 Ben Skirving, 5 Ryan Caldwell, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Nathan Catt.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Charlie Beech, 18 Duncan Bell, 19 Guy Mercer, 20 Carl Fearns, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Olly Woodburn, 23 Jack Cuthbert.

Date: Saturday, February 25
Kick-off: 18:00
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: David Rose
Assistant referees: Peter Huckle, Paul Dix