Preview: Exeter v Saracens

Date published: November 28 2014

In-form Exeter will aim to continue their giant-slaying exploits as they host Saracens at Sandy Park on Saturday.

In-form Exeter will aim to continue their giant-slaying exploits as they host Saracens at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Chiefs currently sit second in the Premiership standings after defending champions Northampton Saints reclaimed pole position with their victory at Saracens last Sunday.

Exeter coach Rob Baxter has called on his side to fight “tooth and nail” to keep themselves in the mix at the top end of the Premiership.

Buoyed by back-to-back league wins over Northampton and Wasps, the Chiefs have now won five of their last six matches.

The Chiefs themselves are virtually at full-strength, buoyed by the return at centre of Sam Hill, together with the inclusion of props Ben Moon and Moray Low, both of whom made a huge impact coming off the bench against Wasps a week ago.

“In the past a lot of the fixtures between ourselves and Saracens have been us aiming to climb the table and Saracens aiming to cement their top-four spot. It’s a little different now because we’re up there fighting and we’re both fighting for the same thing for the first time,” said Baxter.

“The good thing about the Premiership is every time you win, you keep yourself at the right end of the table and then the next game becomes an even bigger game.

“As a group we have to say we like being in second place and around the top and that we’ll fight tooth and nail to stay there. We have talked a lot about that this week, but we will see which way we go ultimately on Saturday.”

Meanwhile, Saracens have made six changes to their starting XV.

Jacques Burger comes into the side at openside flanker, as he returns to Sandy Park a year after breaking the all-time Premiership tackling record in last season’s corresponding fixture. Burger is joined by Will Fraser and Ernst Joubert, who pack down at blindside flanker and number eight.

At lock, Mouritz Botha comes into the side to partner skipper Alistair Hargreaves, whilst in the front row, Rhys Gill, Jamie George and James Johnston all start.

At half-back, experienced scrum-half Neil de Kock joins Charlie Hodgson, whilst into the midfield, Duncan Taylor returns at outside centre alongside Chris Wyles.

On the bench, Mako Vunipola returns to the matchday squad for the first time this season, whilst England U20s Junior World Championship winning duo Maro Itoje and Nick Tompkins are also included.

Form: Exeter Chiefs have won their last five matches in all tournaments since tripping up in Bayonne in the European Challenge Cup on 18 October. The Chiefs have won their last six fixtures at Sandy Park since Leicester won there in Round Two of Aviva Premiership Rugby. Saracens are winless in their last two matches, against Leicester and Northampton, and have not gone three games in succession without a victory since the end of the 2008/09 season. Saracens have not been victorious away from home in Premiership Rugby since they visited London Irish in Round Three. Exeter have won only two of their nine previous encounters with Saracens in all tournaments, both in the Premiership, at Watford in 2010 and at Sandy Park in 2012.

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (c), 3 Moray Low, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Ryan Caldwell, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Ian Whitten, 23 Byron McGuigan.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Chris Wyles, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Will Fraser, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 James Johnston, 2 Jamie George, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Ben Ransom

Date: Saturday, November 29
Kick-off: 16:30 GMT
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Gareth Copsey
Television match official: Geoff Warren.