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Preview: Exeter v Leicester

31st December 2010 11:11

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Dan Hipkiss lat try Leicester Exeter

Still hurting: Exeter

Exeter Chiefs will be looking to kick on in the Aviva Premiership when they take on defending champions Leicester at Sandy Park on Sunday.

Promoted back in May from the Championship, Rob Baxter's side have indeed settled in nicely to life in the top flight - recording five victories in ten starts - and demonstrating they are more than capable of tackling the elite of the English game.

The New Year, however, begins with arguably the toughest assignment the club could have wished for. Heading for a sold-out Sandy Park will be Richard Cockerill's nine-time Premiership champions Leicester Tigers.

It's a fixture, however, that has grabbed the attention of not only the watching public, but also the Chiefs, who themselves will be looking to avenge their 37-27 defeat by Leicester at Welford Road back in September.

That loss still hurts many at Exeter, especially as the visitors had threatened to pull off the biggest shock in Premiership history when they led 27-16 with just 15 minutes remaining. In the end, it was the experience and guile of the defending league champions which came to the fore and Cockerill's side fought back valiantly to thwart the league newcomers.

"That was our second game in the Premiership and we've come a long way since then," said prop Hoani Tui.

"We've learned a lot and I think all of us have improved immensely.

"Sunday will be a big test, not just for me, but the whole front row and the rest of the forward pack. Leicester are renowned for their good set-piece and good forward play, but hopefully the crowd can get behind us and we can do a job on Leicester."

Likewise head coach Baxter is aware of the Leicester threat and also the challenges which await during the second half of the season.

"We've got to be very realistic and honest with ourselves," said Baxter.

"We've won some home games and an important away game [at Saracens]. However, the games that had to be won we've won at home.

"Sunday's game has been sold out for a couple of months now and what that should tell us is that people want to come and watch us and that they are excited about what we're doing."

Meanwhile, Leicester Tigers make five changes to the team for the Aviva Premiership clash with Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park.

Jordan Crane takes his place after recovering from injury while fellow England internationals George Chuter, Dan Cole, and Ben Youngs return after being rested last week. Matt Smith is named on the wing in the other change to the starting XV.

Fly-half Toby Flood is named among the replacements after recovering from injury.

Richard Cockerill, Tigers director of rugby, said: "We're in good shape and in pretty good form but we know it will be a tough afternoon there. It is sold out in advance and these are the kind of games and days they wanted to be involved in when they got promoted.

"Exeter kept together the core of their team from last year and Rob Baxter is doing a great job.

"At Welford Road they played really well, they could have won it and were very unlucky to go home with nothing in the end. We have nothing but respect for them.

"Everybody talks about momentum but we just talk about the next game and trying to get points out of it. We have to get something because every point will count."

Form: The two clubs met in round two with the Tigers gaining a 37-27 victory at Welford Road. Exeter have not beaten Leicester since a friendly in 1966. Exeter Chiefs' 12-24 reversal at London Wasps on 5 December in the Premiership ended a three game winning run in the competition. Their trip to Bath on Boxing Day was aborted due to the cold snap. Leicester Tigers beat Sale Sharks 54-21 at Welford Road on Monday, and opened their winning account away from home in Aviva Premiership Rugby on 4 December with their 23-14 victory at London Irish.

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Nic Sestaret, 13 Jason Shoemark, 12 Sireli Naqelevuki, 11 Mark Foster, 10 Ryan Davis, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 James Hanks, 4 Tom Hayes (capt), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Chris Whitehead, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Simon Alcott, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Chris Budgen, 19 Chad Slade, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Junior Poluleuligaga, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Phil Dollman.

Leicester: 15 Geordan Murphy (capt), 14 Matt Smith, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Jeremy Staunton, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Craig Newby, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Ed Slater, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Martin Castrogiovanni, 18 Julian White, 19 Calum Green, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 James Grindal, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Horacio Agulla.

Date: Sunday, January 2
Kick-off: 16:15
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: JP Doyle

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