Preview: Exeter v London Irish

Date published: March 30 2012

Exeter Chiefs have banned talk of their Amlin Challenge Cup trip to Paris ahead of this week's domestic clash with London Irish.

Exeter have banned talk of their Amlin Challenge Cup trip to Paris ahead of their domestic clash with London Irish at Sandy Park on Saturday.

The Chiefs will head to the French capital next Thursday for a first ever appearance in the quarter-finals of Europe's second tier. However, before that Rob Baxter's side have an equally important domestic assignment to get done.

With just four top flight games remaining, the Devon club find themselves in fifth spot and just two points adrift of the play-off places.

It's certainly exciting times for the Chiefs, but as assistant coach Ali Hepher warned ahead of this latest kick-off, Exeter know they have yet to experience victory over the Exiles and this latest match-up will be no walk in the park.

“We're not really looking back at what has happened, we are looking at what is in the future and that's really exciting at the minute,” said Hepher.

“The guys have put in some cracking performances over the last few weeks and they are getting just rewards for their hard work.

“They have put a lot of effort into their self improvement and you can see that coming through in a lot of their play. As far as we are concerned it's another game; it's an important game; and we just have to attack it.

“All we are really worried about is not performing and that's how we are going to approach the game.”

Not surprisingly, the Chiefs stick with a winning formula for Saturday's game. And for one player in particular, it will be another memorable milestone in his glittering Exeter career. Number eight Richard Baxter is poised to run out for his 400th league and cup appearance for the club, some 15 years after he made his senior debut in an away fixture against Fylde.

Meanwhile, London Irish have made one change from the side that faced Leicester Tigers last Sunday for Saturday's match at Sandy Park.

Adrian Jarvis will start at fly-half alongside Darren Allinson. Joe Ansbro again joins Steve Shingler in the centres after starting last weekend.

“We were pleased with the effort and intent last week and will need to produce the same performance this weekend against an Exeter side that is currently playing well. There is still much to play for this season, so we will go down there to be competitive and look to come away with a result,” said London Irish head coach Toby Booth.

Form: Exeter Chiefs continue to push hard for a semi-final spot, with the only defeat in their last six Aviva Premiership Rugby matches being 9-12 at home to Bath on 25 February. The Chiefs beat Sale 37-12 in their most recent Premiership game at Sandy Park, but have not won back to back encounters at the venue in the competition since September. London Irish have won only one of their last nine matches in all competitions: 23-15 at home to Gloucester in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on 4 February. Irish were leading with just two minutes left against Leicester at Madejski Stadium on Sunday but finished the match with NO league points – the latest in a game that this has ever happened in Premiership history. London Irish have won all five previous matches they have played against Exeter in all competitions.

The teams:

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

London Irish: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Ansbro, 12 Steven Shingler, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Adrian Jarvis, 9 Darren Allinson, 8 Jamie Gibson, 7 Matt Garvey, 6 Declan Danaher, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 Nick Kennedy (capt), 3 Faan Rautenbach, 2 David Paice, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 James Buckland, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Paulica Ion, 19 Bob Casey, 20 Alex Gray, 21 Ofisa Treviranus, 22 Delon Armitage, 23 Paul Hodgson.

Date: Saturday, March 31
Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: David Pearson
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Ashley Rowden