Preview: Sale v Exeter

Date published: October 31 2013

Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter has made one change to his starting XV for Friday's clash with Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter has made one change to his starting XV for Friday's clash with Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.

With Tongan winger Fetu'u Vainikolo away on international duty, Baxter is forced to make a change to his winning formula. He welcomes Welshman Tom James back into the starting XV with Luke Arscott coming onto the bench for his first involvement with the Chiefs this season.

The talented back has been sidelined since pre-season after sustaining a nasty finger injury in the friendly with Glasgow Warriors. Otherwise, the Chiefs stick with the same personnel that dismantled the Warriors so well.

Baxter is never one to get carried away with victories, nor does he tend to go into his shell following any kind of setback.

Instead, the Exeter Chiefs head coach is happy for him and his team to 'carry on regardless' and right now that means 'more of the same' from the Devon club as they look to preserve their spot in the top four of the Aviva Premiership.

Four wins in six starts this term have put the Chiefs in a healthy position in English rugby's top flight and tomorrow night they will be looking to add the name of Sale Sharks to their list of seasonal scalps claimed.

The Sharks, however, are a different proposition to that of 12 months ago and although they claimed a first-ever top flight win over the Chiefs in the corresponding fixture last season, Baxter is aware his side's latest trip to Manchester will be a formidable challenge.

“We are aware it is a very tough fixture for us, Sale are a very different animal this year,” warned Baxter.

“They look a lot more solid and I say that as a great compliment. People talk about us being a solid side and I take it as a compliment, but they look happy and confident with what they are doing and we are expecting a very competitive game.

“I think whenever you go away to Sale on a Friday night you know you have to show up and put in a good performance and that is what we have to aim to do.”

Having trounced the Sharks in the opening game of last season's Premiership season, the Northerners gained their revenge in the return leg in February when they overturned a 13-5 half-time deficit to win 21-16.

It was a result that even now – several months down the line – that does not sit too well with Baxter or his squad.

“It is on our minds a little bit because there are a lot of things that we got wrong up there,” said Baxter. “In the first half against them last year, we came out of the blocks really well and probably should have put the game put to bed by half time. That said, fair play to Sale, they stayed in there and kept fighting and turned the momentum in the second half.

“Looking back we learned a lot from that fixture because we moved forward and then went on a really good run of fixtures at the end because I think we felt a little bit disappointed by the result. However, at the end of the game, I had no complaints about the result. We got what we deserved that night.”

Meanwhile, Sale Sharks' director of rugby Steve Diamond has made three changes to his run-on side that lost 24-3 to Harlequins at the Stoop last weekend.

All the changes are amongst the forwards with the most significant bein captain Dan Braid's return to the openside flank after doing duty on the blindside last week.

Braid comes in for David Seymour – who drops down to the bench – while fellow New Zealander Michael Paterson starts in the number six jersey. The other changes sees Kirill Kulemin replacing Jonathan Mills at lock while Vadim Cobilas is preferred to Henry Thomas at tighthead prop.

Mills and Thomas are also included amongst the replacements.

Form: Sale Sharks' three game winning run in all competitions ended at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday. The Sharks have lost only once at AJ Bell Stadium since February: 14-15 to Newcastle in round 2 of Aviva Premiership Rugby. Exeter Chiefs rose into the top four for the first time since the opening round of last season with their 40-6 demolition of Worcester on Saturday. The Chiefs only defeat in their last six Premiership away encounters was 11-38 at Northampton on the opening weekend of the new season. The two sides have met on six previous occasions with the Sharks only victory so far coming at AJ Bell Stadium in their most recent encounter.

The teams:

Sale: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Jonny Leota, 12 Sammy Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Mark Easter, 7 Dan Braid (c), 6 Michael Paterson, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Kirill Kulemin, 3 Vadim Cobilas 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Eifion Lewis Roberts.
Replacements 16 Marc Jones, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 David Seymour, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Andy Forsyth

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Jason Shoemark, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (capt), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Don Armand, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Luke Arscott.

Date: Friday, November 1
Kick-off: 20:00
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Paul Dix
Television match official: Trevor Fisher
Timekeeper: Anthony Turner
Assessor: Gary Welsh