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Preview: Exeter v Leicester

10th February 2012 12:40

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Manu Tuilagi Try Clermont

Manu Tuilagi: Back for the Tigers

Exeter coach Rob Baxter has recalled several of his first-choice players for Saturday's Aviva Premiership clash with Leicester.

The match at Sandy Park will present the Chiefs with an opportunity to cement their place within the top six in the standings and to produce another win double after claiming a 30-28 victory in the corresponding fixture at Welford Road back in September.

After resting during the past fortnight during the LV= Cup, the majority of the Chiefs frontline troops return for this crucial block of Premiership fixtures in which three of the next four will be staged at Sandy Park.

And according to Baxter, this next month will be a key period in the club's seasonal objectives.

"Obviously everybody can see it's a pretty close league right now," he said.

"If Leicester can get some decent points this weekend that will help cement themselves in the top four, a position where they want to be. But if we can get some points, then we can start to challenge that top half and that's a fantastic goal for us.

"It's like anything if you can take points in home games, everything becomes easier for you.

"We have got three out of four at home in the next month, so if we are not targeting these games then there is something wrong with our ambition," added Baxter.

The coach is well aware of the threat posed by the Tigers, who will again be without a number of their star names due to the current Six Nations campaign and injuries.

"They won't be selecting from the squad they want to be picking from and they'll have some very good players missing, but whatever team comes down here, it will be pretty close to 15 internationals," said Baxter.

"It will be tough, we know that, but at the same time we don't mind that because we always say the way you show respect to other teams is to go out full on and play as hard as you can.

"That is what we do when we play teams like Leicester - you have to play full on to give yourselves a chance.

"Personally, I think that is why the games between are so good and I'm looking forward to the weekend because we tend to play well in these types of games."

Meanwhile, Manu Tuilagi and Toby Flood return to the Leicester Tigers team for the trip to Sandy Park.

Fly-half Flood came through half an hour of last weekend's win over Newcastle Falcons following his recovery from a knee injury, while centre Tuilagi is included for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury in the victory at Worcester at the end of December.

Skipper Geordan Murphy, wing Alesana Tuilagi and back-rower Julian Salvi are among those who return after sitting out LV= Cup action in the last fortnight.

Fly-half George Ford, who captained England U20s to victory over Scotland last weekend, returns to club duty and is named among the replacements.

Leicester's director of rugby Richard Cockerill is delighted with the return of Tuilagi and Flood.

"It's good to have Toby and Manu back to fitness," he said.

"This is an important phase of the season for us. We've been in good form and we obviously need to maintain that.

"Exeter are a tough, physical side and hard to beat, and we see ourselves as a tough side who are also hard to beat so it should be a really good game."

Form: Exeter Chiefs' four match winning run in all competitions ended at home to Bath in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on Sunday. Exeter have won three of their last five games in Aviva Premiership Rugby, but at home in the tournament the Chiefs' only win in their last four fixtures at Sandy Park was 15-9 over Worcester in round ten. Leicester Tigers' only two first team defeats since the World Cup have both been away from home in the European Cup: at Clermont Auvergne and Ulster. Tigers have won their last five Premiership matches and are unbeaten in their last seven encounters in the competition. Exeter have won their last two clashes with Leicester in all competitions, whilst the Tigers were victorious 22-15 on their only previous visit to Sandy Park in the Premiership, on 2 January 2011.

The teams:

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Nic Sestaret, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Ignacio Mieres, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Tom Hayes (c), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Neil Clark, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 James Phillips, 20 Ben White, 21 Kevin Barrett, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Bryan Rennie.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy (c), 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sam Harrison, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 George Skivington, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Julian White, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Logoviii Mulipola, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Ben Woods, 21 James Grindal, 22 George Ford, 23 Matt Smith.

Date: Saturday, February 11
Kick-off: 18:00
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: Sean Davey

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