Preview: Exeter v Sale

Date published: March 2 2012

Sale welcome back Scottish international Richie Vernon for their mid-table cracker against Exeter on Saturday.

Sale welcome back Scottish international Richie Vernon for their mid-table cracker against Exeter on Saturday.

The two teams are currently level on points on the Aviva Premiership table, with Exeter ahead on points difference.

Vernon's return is particularly welcome due to the fact that Andrei Ostrikov is ruled out of the clash by injury. As a result James Gaskell moves into the second row to replace him with Vernon coming in on the flank.

When the two teams met in November, Ignacio Mieres scored a last-minute try to seal the win for Exeter, with the Chiefs overcoming a sixteen-point half-time deficit.

Sharks boss Tony Hanks is determined to gain some revenge for the result, with his team sure not to make the same mistakes twice.

“We've taken some confidence out of the last three weeks and have been building nicely. We're well aware of how tough it will be down at Sandy Park,” Hanks told the club's official website.

“The Chiefs taught us a lesson earlier in the season: they're never beaten.They have a proud home record and will want to respond after their narrow defeat to Bath last weekend. We have a lot of respect for them, but there's a real focus on what we're doing and what we want to achieve. This is a crucial game for us – the first of six rounds which will determine our final placing.”

Exeter boss Rob Baxter has made two changes to the team that lost to Bath last time out.

James Hanks returns in the second row in place of Peter Short while Bryan Rennie takes over from Nic Sestaret in the midfield.

While the loss to Bath came as somewhat of a surprise, Baxter remains happy with his side's progress, but knows that Sale will prove a tough opponent to beat.

“As I said, we're not going to push the panic button just because of one result. We're happy with where we are right now, but we'll look to improve on a few things and hopefully get a result at the weekend,” he told the club's official website.

“They will be a massive challenge. They played very well last weekend and scored a lot of tries [against Wasps]. They have an exciting team up there, but equally I feel we have a strong enough side to put in a big performance again them. And I know if we get that performance right, hopefully the result will take care of itself.”

Form: Exeter Chiefs have suffered just two defeats in 2012 – both at home to Bath, in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and Aviva Premiership Rugby. Exeter have lost three of their last five encounters at Sandy Park. Sale Sharks have won three of their last four matches, whilst their only victory on the road since December was 69-10 at Spanish side La Vila in the European Challenge Cup on 14 January. Exeter have won all three previous fixtures they have played with the Sharks.

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 Nic Sestaret.

Sale: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou (capt), 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Andy Powell, 7 David Seymour, 6 Richie Vernon, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Kearnan Myall, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Joe Ward, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Wame Lewaravu, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Cillian Willis, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Joaquin Tuculet.

Date: Saturday, March 3
Kick-off: 15:00Referee: Dean Richards