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Preview: Glasgow v Exeter

18th October 2013 11:08

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SKY_MOBILE Nikola Matawalu Glasgow Warriors

Niko Matawalu: Starts for Glasgow

Glasgow Warriors can gain the upper hand in the battle to qualify from Heineken Cup pool 2 with victory over Exeter Chiefs on Sunday.

The Warriors welcome the Chiefs to Scotstoun off the back of a hefty defeat to reigning champions and pool-topping Toulon. Losing 34-0 at half-time, the PRO12 leaders scored four tries to restore some respectability to the eventual 51-28 scoreline, and grab what could be a crucial bonus point.

Coach Gregor Townsend has rotated his squad plenty in the opening league fixtures, but the depth of this Warriors outfit has been proven. They sit atop the Pro12 leaderboard with five wins from five, and have conceded just two domestic tries.

Matt Taylor, Warriors and Scotland defence coach, spoke out this week on his side's need to turn in a complete display, with last Sunday's first-half display at Stade Felix Mayol proving disappointing.

"We just need to put in an 80-minute performance against Exeter, a very good team who had a very good result at the weekend," Taylor told the BBC.

"If you look across their team, they have some really exciting individuals, but for me they are a team that work hard for one another and we need to do that too and will be concentrating on what we do well."

The Chiefs enjoyed a record-breaking 44-29 victory on Saturday over a Cardiff Blues side boasting a plethora of British and Irish Lions tourists, securing a bonus point within half an hour.

Their Premiership form, too, has been very encouraging for boss Rob Baxter, with victories over London Wasps, London Irish and Gloucester leaving Exeter in sixth place.

This led to impressive back-row Tom Johnson winning a call-up on Wednesday to Stuart Lancaster's England squad for the November Tests, and the national coach confirming that the continuation of the Chiefs' collective form could lead to more of their charges being recognised at test-match level.

Baxter knows that, should his side overcome Glasgow on Sunday, they will be set in a very commanding position in the pool, up to nine points ahead of their rivals from North of the border.

With Toulon expected to take top spot in their stride, the battle between the Warriors and the Chiefs will be crucial to determine the knockout stage qualifiers.

Argentina centre Gabriel Ascarate will make his home debut for Glasgow Warriors in this encounter.

Ascarate has previously featured in the away wins over Ulster and Zebre in the PRO12.

Sean Maitland, Tommy Seymour and DTH van der Merwe make up the back three for Glasgow, with Ascarate partnering Byron McGuigan at centre.

Ruaridh Jackson starts at fly-half, alongside scrum-half Niko Matawalu, who makes his first appearance at Scotstoun this season.

Ryan Grant, Pat MacArthur and Ed Kalman make up the front row, while Tim Swinson partners Al Kellock in the engine room.

Josh Strauss continues at number eight, with Rob Harley and Tyrone Holmes on either flank.

The Warriors have won their last four home matches against English opposition in the Heineken Cup.

"We learned a great deal last weekend in Toulon, about ourselves and the level of rugby we face in this competition," said Townsend.

"We had gone into the match full of confidence but we were way off our best in the first half.

"The display from our players after half-time was excellent but there is still an underlying feeling in our group of frustration and determination to put things right.

"It is very important that we rise up and deliver an eighty-minute performance on Sunday.

"Exeter Chiefs are a well coached side and I have huge respect for Rob Baxter and what he's done down there. We're well aware of the challenge we face this weekend.

"It's great to have Heineken Cup rugby back in Glasgow and I know our supporters will once again turn out in big numbers to get behind the team on Sunday."

Meanwhile, Baxter has challenged Exeter to back-up their opening week win in this season's Heineken Cup with another powerful performance north of the border.

Although victorious last time out, the Chiefs boss has tinkered with his winning formula with Ben Moon coming in for his first start at loosehead prop in place of Brett Sturgess. Young centre Sam Hill returns in the midfield to partner Jason Shoemark - which in turn means Ian Whitten is shunted back onto the wing with Fetu'u Vainikolo dropping to the bench. The Tongan winger will be joined in the replacements by prop Alex Brown, who comes in for the injured Carl Rimmer (shoulder).

Baxter is well aware, the Warriors will be a tough nut to crack and their pre-season win at Sandy Park against the Chiefs is a timely reminder of the threat they will pose to his players.

"We know it will be a tough game and we know there will be some reaction from them to the Toulon game because Glasgow have been going really well in the Rabo this season," he said.

"They will be disappointed with last week - and they should be - because they probably went there with quite high expectations about the battle they could give to Toulon over there, yet they ended up experiencing one of those days where every offload and every pass that Toulon produced in the early stages seemed to come off.

"That in turn meant the game broke up and when that happens against a side like Toulon, who are one of the most dangerous sides in the world if that happens, it's always going to be tough. That said, I think they showed in the second half that they are a very solid outfit and they play a lot for each other. As we know we had a tough game against them here in pre-season, so we know Sunday will be a big test for us."

The Chiefs, though, will travel to Scotland not only in buoyant mood following recent results, but also in the knowledge that should they claim a second European scalp this term, points-wise it will put them in a great position heading into their double-header with Toulon in December.

The teams:

Preview: Glasgow Warriors: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Byron McGuigan, 12 Gabriel Ascarate, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Niko Matawalu, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Tyrone Holmes, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Al Kellock (c), 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Ed Kalman, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Moray Low, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Richie Vernon, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Mark Bennett.

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Ian Whitten, 13 Jason Shoemark, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Matt Jess, 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 Chris Whitehead, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Brett Sturgess, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Don Armand, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Fetu'u Vainikolo.

Date: Sunday, October 20
Venue: Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow
Kick-off: 14:00 BST (12.00 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite

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