Exeter Chiefs travel to Paris as underdogs for the first Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final against Stade FranÃ§ais on Thursday.
Exeter Chiefs travel to Paris for the first Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final against Stade FranÃ§ais on Thursday.
Having seen off the likes of Perpignan and the Dragons in the Pools, Rob Baxter's side will come up against arguably their toughest European assignment to date when they lock horns with the last season's losing finalists at Stade Charlety.
The Chiefs – in just their second season in both Europe and the Aviva Premiership – have caused quite a stir over the past few months with some outstanding displays stunning several opponents.
With hooker Chris Whitehead having declared himself fully fit despite picking up an ankle injury in Saturday's home win over London Irish, Baxter has been able to stick with an unchanged squad.
“We've already had some real challenges this season, not least playing the likes of Leicester,” said the coach.
“We came through two games against them and we also came through what was a very tough final quarter up at Gloucester so, like I said, we've overcome some challenges already.
“This latest one will be different because of the distance we are travelling and it's a team we've not played before. At the same time we're not sure how they are going to attacking the competition either, but I know it will be an interesting game for us.
“Obviously when you go to France your set-piece needs to stand up, simply because every French side takes pride in that. Looking at Stade you can see they have a good driving game off their line-outs, they run solid and they have some top performance. At the same time, we're doing OK in those departments as well, so I expect it to be a big physical contest.”
Meanwhile, Stade FranÃ§ais will be without Australian full-back Paul Warwick due to a back injury. Former Wallaby George Smith will however start having recently arrived from Japan.
Stade FranÃ§ais: 15 Djibril Camara, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Morgan Turinui, 12 Paul Williams, 11 Julien Arias, 10 Felipe Contepomi, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Antoine Burban, 6 George Smith, 5 Pascal Pape, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Rodrigo Roncero.
Replacements: 16 Laurent Sempere, 17 Olivier Milloud, 18 Stan Wright, 19 Alexandre Flanquart, 20 David Lyons, 21 Pierre Rabadan, 22 Jerome Fillol, 23 Hugo Bonneval.
Exeter Chiefs: 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 (c), 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 Sireli Naqelevuki.
Date: Thursday, April 5
Venue: Stade Charlety, Paris
Kick-off: 20:45 (19:45 BST)
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon