Preview: Exeter v Harlequins

Date published: October 6 2012

Defending Premiership champions Harlequins have made two changes to their starting XV to face Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Defending Premiership champions Harlequins have made two changes to their starting XV to face Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Following last week's loss to Saracens and with one eye on next weekend's clash with Biarritz in the Heineken Cup, Karl Dickson starts ahead of Danny Care at scrum-half.

In the forwards, Mark Lambert makes his first start of the season, at loose head, with Joe Marler covering from the bench.

On other news from the Stoop, George Lowe had surgery on Friday to remove a bone fragment from his ankle. The Harlequins centre is due to return in around six weeks.

Meanwhile, Exeter Chiefs' head coach Rob Baxter says his team will have to produce a “big performance” if they are to overcome defending champions Harlequins.

Undone 30-8 at Leicester Tigers a week ago, Baxter is hoping for an immediate riposte from his side as they prepare to welcome Conor O'Shea's men to Sandy Park for the third time in the top flight.

“We know they are a very good side, who have developed a swagger about themselves and who are confident,” said Baxter.

“They're confident in the way they play and they've developed all areas of their game. They are certainly exciting across the board and they play high tempo rugby, which is backed up with a good set-piece, so that is what makes them dangerous.

Skipper Tom Hayes and James Scaysbrook – both of whom were due to feature in their 50th consecutive Premiership appearance for the Devon club – have both been given the weekend off, as has fellow forward Chris Whitehead. That means coming into the pack are Australian international lock Dean Mumm (for his Chiefs debut), flanker Ben White and hooker Simon Alcott (first Premiership start).

Behind, there are also changes where Gareth Steenson takes over in the number 10 jersey from Ignacio Mieres and Phil Dollman is given the nod ahead of Sireli Naqelevuki in the midfield. On the bench, Neil Clark appears for the first time this season, whilst Academy product Dave Ewers has also been called up following some notable performances for the Braves.

Despite the changes, Baxter admits it's an exciting blend of talent at his disposal and he is looking for his side to kick on further in the league, before then moving on to back-to-back dates in Europe against Leinster and Clermont Auvergne.
“We are pretty much on track in terms of where we want to be,” said Baxter.

“Obviously we would have liked to have beaten both London Welsh and Northampton, but you have to take the reasons for it on the chin and look to move forward. As always we are learning as we go along and this week is yet another important game for us.”

Form: Exeter Chiefs' only win in their last four Aviva Premiership Rugby fixtures was 14-12 at home to Saracens a fortnight ago, whilst the Chiefs only defeat at Sandy Park since February was 15-18 to Northampton on 22 April. Harlequins seven game winning run in the Premiership came to a halt at home to Saracens on Sunday. Quins are unbeaten in their last five away games in the tournament. The Chiefs only win so far over Harlequins in the Premiership came at Sandy Park on 12 February 2011.

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Ian Whitten, 13 Phil Dollman, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter(c), 7 Ben White, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 James Hanks, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Carl Rimmer, 2 Simon Alcott, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Neil Clark, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Chris Budgen, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Sireli Naqelevuki.

Harlequins:15 Mike Brown, 14 Seb Stegmann, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (c) 6 Tom Guest, 5 George Robson, 4 Olly Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert,
Replacements:16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 21 Danny Care, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague.

Date: Saturday, October 6
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: Martin Fox
Assistant referees: Peter Huckle, Gareth Copsey
Timekeeper: Matthew Peters
Assessor: Ed Morrison