Preview: Exeter v Saracens

Date published: September 21 2012

Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter will be without England flanker Tom Johnson for their Premiership clash with Saracens on Sunday.

Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter will be without England flanker Tom Johnson for their clash with Saracens.

Johnson and Craig Mitchell's absence mean Carl Rimmer and James Phillips come into the pack.

Haydn Thomas is given his first outing of the term at scrum-half and the back line is rejigged with Ian Whitten and Phil Dollman trading places.

On the back of losing to London Welsh, it will be another tough examination for Baxter and his squad, but one the group are keen to take on.

“Yes it was frustrating not to win those games, but that's what it is,” said Baxter.

“Every game of Premiership rugby is tough and at the end of the day we came away with something from both those fixtures. Our major aim was to be competitive in every game and we were certainly competitive up in Oxford.

“We would have liked to have won – of course we would have – and did we feel we played as well as could have? Of course we don't. But there is still a reality that in the closing stages we were six points up, but then made a couple of mistakes and the game got away from us. We've done that to other teams ourselves in the Premiership and sometimes you have to take it on the chin and say today we weren't good enough. As I said afterwards, it's not the end of the world, but we know we have to be better next time.”

Meanwhile, scrum-half Neil de Kock will make his 150th appearance for Saracens in the round three clash while Kelly Brown will captain the side.

Jamie George also gets his first start of the season at hooker as does Duncan Taylor who is named at outside centre. Alistair Hargreaves is also given his first start in the Premiership with Steve Borthwick switching to the bench.

After getting 20 minutes of action for Saracens Storm on Monday, Matt Stevens is also in line for his first outing of the season.

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Form: Exeter Chiefs' solitary victory in their last five Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters was 43-6 at home to Sale in round one. The Chiefs have won three of their last four games at Sandy Park in the competition. Saracens preserved their unbeaten start to the new season with the 9-all draw with Leicester at Wembley Stadium on Saturday. Sarries have won their last four away games in the regular season of Aviva Premiership Rugby. Exeter's only victory over Saracens so far came in their first ever clash in the Premiership at Vicarage Road on 30 October 2010.

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Phil Dollman, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sireli Naqelevuki, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 James Phillips, 5 James Hanks, 4 Tom Hayes (capt), 3 Carl Rimmer, 2 Chris Whitehead, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Simon Alcott, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Chris Budgen, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 Ben White, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Jack Nowell.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 James Short, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown (capt), 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Alistair Hargreaves, 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Steve Borthwick, 20 Ernst Joubert, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Joel Tomkins.

Date: Sunday, September 23
Kick-off: 14:15 BST
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: David Rose
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Ashley Rowden
Television match official: David Grashoff
Timekeeper: Laurie Bryant
Assessor: Stephen Leyshon