Preview: Northampton v Exeter

Date published: September 7 2012

Exeter have made a positional switch to their starting XV for Sunday's Premiership clash against Northampton at Franklin's Gardens.

Exeter have made a positional switch to their starting XV for Sunday's Premiership clash against Northampton at Franklin's Gardens.

An injury to Kiwi centre Jason Shoemark, sustained in the 43-6 win over Sale, means he misses out this weekend, so Phil Dollman switches from full-back to the midfield, whilst the number 15 spot is filled by Luke Arscott.

On the bench, the visitors welcome back Fijian powerhouse Sireli Naqelevuki as one of their three options in the backs.

The loss of Shoemark can be considered an untimely blow, but Chiefs assistant coach Ali Hepher said the quality and depth of the current Exeter squad is there to be seen and he says the competition for places right across the board is helping to bring out the best in all of the players.

“The guys are on good form and there is pressure for places in every position,” he explained.

“That is why you get a performance like that of last week because there are those guys pushing hard behind. For us as coaches, that's really important and with the Braves winning on Sunday in the A League, that was vital as well as it keeps everybody working hard.”

Hepher expects a tougher assignment against the Saints this weekend as the Chiefs have claimed just a solitary losing bonus point in two previous top flight visits to the East Midlands venue.

“Sunday will be a great challenge for us,” he said.

“They're obviously a top team, not just in the Premiership, but also in Europe as well and that's where we need to be testing ourselves. I think this weekend will give us a good gauge as to how good a side we are.”

Hepher was also delighted with the way the Chiefs attacked the Sharks, particularly in the second half where Exeter ran in five tries and will be looking to repeat that showing.

“We have tried to simplify things and give a balance to our attack,” he said.

“We are always looking for space and options within our attacks, some of them came off last week and some didn't, but it's a case of developing the players and developing their understanding and decision-making.

“That's coming on really well and we are starting to threaten sides in the wide spaces, so we are happy with the way it went, but equally we missed a couple of golden chances and we know we have to be clinical if we are going to get anything out of the game this weekend.”

Meanwhile, Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder has named the same starting line-up that beat Gloucester 24-19 in their opener last week.

Despite that win, Mallinder believes his team need to take a step up from last weekend's performance at Kingsholm.

“It's vital that we get off to a good start at home,” the Saints boss said.

“Last weekend at Gloucester we got a good away win and now we have to build on that on Sunday afternoon.

“At times we played well and scored three good tries, but in the last 10 minutes we had to dig deep as well.

“We shouldn't have got ourselves in that position in the first place, but the team spirit was fantastic, we held our defensive patterns and held them out.

“So we know we have to build on both our attack and defence this weekend.

“Exeter are a quality side, as they have shown for the last couple of seasons. The players work hard for each other and they played well in their win over Sale last Saturday.

“It's going to be a big game and a tough game, but it is one that we are looking forward to.”

Form: Northampton Saints prevailed against Gloucester at Kingsholm last Saturday. The Saints have won five of their last six matches at Franklin's Gardens in all competitions. Exeter Chiefs kicked off the new Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign with a comprehensive victory over Sale at Sandy Park. The Chiefs lost their most recent Premiership away game at Saracens, a loss which ended a run of four successive wins on the road in the competition. Exeter's solitary victory over Northampton in any competition remains their 30-9 win at Sandy Park in the Premiership on 6 March 2011. The Chiefs have lost on all three previous visits to Franklin's Gardens.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Dom Waldouck, 11 Vasily Artemyev, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 GJ Van Velze, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Christian Day, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Mark Sorenson, 20 Rhys Oakley, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Luther Burrell.

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Josh Tatupu, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Phil Dollman, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Tom Hayes (c), 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Chris Whitehead, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Simon Alcott, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Chris Budgen, 19 James Hanks, 20 James Phillips, 21 Kevin Barrett, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Sireli Naqelevuki.

Date: Sunday, September 9
Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Kick-off: 15.00 BST (14.00GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle