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Preview: Exeter v Saracens

15th April 2011 14:28

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Sireli Naqelevuki Exeter Saracens

At inside centre for Exeter: Sireli Naqelevuki

Saracens have made two changes to their side for Saturday's Aviva Premiership clash with Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park.

Sarries win against Bath earlier this month extended theiur winning run the eight games in all competitions.

Second row Mouritz Botha comes into the starting line-up with Steve Borthwick ruled out this weekend with a minor shoulder knock, while Jacques Burger also returns to the starting XV with Andy Saull named on the bench. Ernst Joubert captains the side.

The only other change to the matchday 23 sees Hugh Vyvyan come onto the replacements bench.

Meanwhile, Exeter Head Coach Rob Baxter admits a return to home comforts is just the tonic the Chiefs need after suffering from a recent bout of travel sickness.

Three successive defeats on the road at London Irish, Leeds Carnegie and Bath - plus an enforced two-week break for Cup competitions - means it is some six weeks since Chiefs overcame Northampton Saints at Sandy Park.

This weekend, however, they are back on familiar territory looking to complete a league double over Saracens.

Exeter's 23-9 triumph at Vicarage Road back in October remains one of the club's main highlights in the top flight this term - and went some way to dispelling the theory of some media pundits that the club would be relegated at the first time of asking.

Since then the Chiefs have gone on to impress many with their on-field displays and currently sit 16 points clear of bottom club Newcastle Falcons with just three games of the season to play.

Sadly, though, Baxter and his troops cannot quite celebrate a magnificent first season in the Premiership just yet as an administrative error in the registration of Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo has meant the club are currently waiting to see if they are to be punished by the Rugby Football Union for fielding three overseas players in a match-day squad.

Baxter revealed this week he had already apologised to his players for matters which have gone on off the field.

"It has been frustrating. We have worked very hard this season and I've already spoken to the players to apologise to them," admitted Baxter.

"Anything that means that points we have worked and fought hard for could get taken away from the club is obviously very frustrating for them."

Despite recent form, Exeter's leader is confident that work done on the training field this week, as well as a return to Sandy Park can help his side rediscover their magic.

Chiefs have made one change to their starting line-up. Lock James Hanks has recovered from the shoulder injury which has sidelined him for the past two weeks and comes back into the second row in place of Samoan international Chad Slade, who drops to the bench at the expense of Dave Gannon.

The other change in personnel see prop Chris Budgen return to the match-day 23 after missing out at Bath last week, Argentine forward Ignacio Elosu is the man to step aside.

Form: The two teams have met just once before in competitive rugby, in round seven of the Premiership, with the Chiefs winning 23-9 at Vicarage Road. Exeter Chiefs have slipped to three straight defeats in Aviva Premiership Rugby, but all three of those encounters were played away from their Sandy Park home. At home the Chiefs have won four of their last five matches in all competitions. Saracens have won eight successive matches in all competitions since their 14-24 reversal at home to Clermont Auvergne in the Heineken Cup on 21 January.

The teams:

Exter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Jason Shoemark, 12 Sireli Naqelevuki, 11 Nic Sestaret, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 JuniorPoluleuligaga, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 James Hanks, 4 Tom Hayes (c), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Neil Clark, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Chris Budgen, 19 Chad Slade, 20 James Phillips, 21 Garrick Cowley, 22 Phil Dollman, 23 Ignacio Mieres.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Chris Wyles, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 James Short, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert (c), 7 Jacques Burger 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Hayden Smith, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Matt Stevens.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Hugh Vyvyan, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Kevin Barrett, 22 Adam Powell, 23 Noah Cato.

Date: Saturday, April 16
Venue: Sandy Park
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Dean Richards

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