Preview: Exeter v Harlequins

Date published: May 2 2014

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter hopes to see a response from his players when they return to Aviva Premiership action against Harlequins.

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter hopes to see a response from his players when they return to Aviva Premiership action this Sunday against Harlequins.

A fortnight has passed since the Devon club suffered a record 55-12 top flight defeat to Sale Sharks at Sandy Park – and the Exeter boss wants to see some pride restored within the ranks with a passionate display in the club's penultimate league game of the season.

“It's about focusing back on ourselves, not getting distracted and realising that the week's preparation and everything we do is towards a big performance on Sunday,” he said.

“If you turn up and train well during the week it does not mean Sunday will be okay, there's a bit more to it than that.

“Sometimes you can have a poor training week and go into a really big performance because everybody's focus has been on the game coming up. As long as this week's training has some intensity about it, I'm not worried if it's not the most accurate group of sessions. I want us to show we're preparing for a big physical performance.”

Although the Chiefs have had plenty of time to ponder since the Sale setback, the break in action has at least allowed Baxter to freshen up his stock and get one of two more bodies back in the selection mix for this weekend.

Among those returning to the starting line-up include skipper Dean Mumm, Carl Rimmer, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Hoani Tui, the latter of whom is set for pastures new next season in France with newly-promoted Lyon.

The Maori prop, along with Jason Shoemark, Craig Mitchell, James Phillips and Romana Graham, are all departing Devon come the end of the season, but Baxter insists all of them have played their part during their time at the club and a fitting send-off for them would be a final home win.

“We've tended to have good games against Harlequins and the players should be excited by it,” he said.

“We'll talk about it being a big game of Premiership rugby at Sandy Park, it should mean a lot to us and we've got to show that. So long as we do that, I'll be happy.

“We've got several players who are leaving the club and several players who have been forced to retire and they've all been big parts of what we've done at Sandy Park.

“All these things should play their part in motivating us and that has to be the bigger side of the balance than what happened against Sale.

“I'm a pretty simple guy when it comes to what makes me happy and what upsets me on a rugby pitch. Wins are great, but you can be proud of any kind of performance really. I know if the guys are giving their all, and if they are then I'm prepared to take whatever result comes on the chin.”

Meanwhile, Harlequins have made three changes to their side that played Northampton Saints last week in the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final.

Tom Williams and Nick Evans return from injury to start on the right wing and fly-half respectively as Ben Botica moves to the replacements. Williams replaces Charlie Walker who injured his ankle last week and is unlikely to play again this season.

Between an unchanged front and back-row, Nick Kennedy starts with Charlie Matthews in place of George Robson who picked up a knock last week.

Among the replacements, Ugo Monye will look to make his first appearance since March after recovering from an injury sustained against Saracens.

Form: Exeter Chiefs need a victory to keep themselves in contention for a European play-off spot, but have won just one of their last four Aviva Premiership Rugby matches: 38-33 at Worcester Warriors in round 19. As it stands Harlequins need at least another 6 points to give themselves any chance of a semi-final spot, but results elsewhere could equally have seen them eliminated from the race. The Londoners have won their last three Premiership matches since their 13-39 reversal to Saracens at Wembley in round 17. Exeter have won two of their last three fixtures with Harlequins in the Premiership whilst Quins' only previous victory at Sandy Park was 11-9 in the Premiership on New Year's Eve 2011.

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Ben White, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (capt), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Carl Rimmer.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Craig Mitchell, 18 Alex Brown, 19 James Phillips, 20 James Scaysbrook, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Tom James.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Tim Molenaar, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Luke Wallace, 5 Nick Kennedy, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Tom Guest, 20 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 21 Ben Botica, 23 Ugo Monye.

Date: Sunday, May 4
Kick-off: 14:00 BST
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Stuart Terheege, Peter Huckle
Television match official: Greg Garner