Planet Rugby

Preview: Exeter v Scarlets

14th December 2012 12:52


Tom Johnson Exeter Chiefs

Tom Johnson: 150th game for Chiefs

Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter has made six changes to his starting XV for their Heineken Cup clash with the Scalets at Sandy Park on Saturday.

Into the pack come Aly Muldowney, James Hanks and Dean Mumm, whilst behind Ian Whitten, Jack Nowell and Phil Dollman are also given the nod.

"In certain positions in the squad we're pretty injury-free and when that happens and you're comfortable with the guys you've got there you've got to try to keep as many guys fresh as possible," said Baxter.

"You also want to add a bit of energy to the starting line-up as well. We've made a few changes again this weekend because we're just about halfway through a Premiership season that we want to keep playing well in.

"There are quite a few games down the line that we want to go into fresh, but we also want to keep improving.

"I don't think you necessarily do that by just wheeling out the same guys every week.

"Sometimes that's the right thing to do but it's important to keep the squad involved and keep energy levels high on the pitch."

Also featuring from the outset will be England international Tom Johnson, who is set to make his 150th appearance for the club.

Baxter has challenged his side to back-up their first-ever victory in the Heineken Cup by showing the same qualities that brought them European success in Wales a week ago.

Fresh from seeing off the Scarlets 22-16 on their own Parc Y Scarlets turf, Devon's finest entertain Simon Easterby's outfit for a second successive week in their latest Pool 5 fixture.

Again it's a crucial clash for the Chiefs, who after this weekend must next month travel to unbeaten pool leaders Clermont Auvergne before hosting defending champions Leinster.

However, buoyed by their maiden scalp Baxter is keen for his team to kick on and extend their winning streak in all competitions to seven games, particularly ahead of a busy Christmas period which will include Premiership encounters against both Gloucester and Bath.

"It's going to be interesting because it's quite rare you get this situation (where you play a side two weeks in a row)," he added.

"Now the battle is which side recovers the best, does the best preparation and backs it up with the best mindset on the day.

"The short time between last week and facing them again this weekend means we have to process the rights and wrongs of last weekend's game quickly.

"Everything is a little bit different. We did a three or four-game analysis for the first game and that stays in place, but now we add one more game to it.

"The difference is that the players have it in their bodies and minds having experienced it themselves. It is not just things they have seen on video.

"That is slightly different environment to what they are used to. Normally we haven't played a team for a few months and this is about locking horns with guys they have just played against.

"The last time we did that was in the Amlin and that was a little while ago - probably this time last year - so it is a little bit different and something that good players can adapt to.

"The Heineken Cup is a learning experience for us and this is just a slightly different one."

Meanwhile, the Scarlets welcome back Welsh international winger George North into the starting line-up for the big pride-restoring fixture.

Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby said his side had been hard on themselves in terms of their performances in Europe this season but wouldn't look back this weekend as they seek to put things right in Exeter.

"It is vital we get back momentum and you can't find a better stage than Europe to do that," explained Easterby.

"We're obviously frustrated and disappointed with our three results in the Heineken Cup - we've certainly haven't been outplayed in any of our games we just haven't maintained the intensity and execution needed throughout 80 minutes.

"The opportunity now rests with us to turn that around and with a big result this weekend we go back into the league with confidence.

"We put in a positive performance in the second half last weekend and created plenty of opportunities against Exeter.

"We've plenty of homework on them over the last couple of weeks - our mindset will be the same again that with the quality we have on the field we can go to Sandy Park with confidence and it's certainly not beyond us to get a result there.

"We know they have a very good home record, and a big, hostile atmosphere will in many ways create the kind of occasion that our players can feed off and build tempo from.

"We've been good on the road this year and we'll draw on that for the next five fixtures."

In the backs, Wales international centre Jonathan Davies captains his side again alongside fellow international Scott Williams, Liam Williams switches from wing to full-back, Gareth Maule starts on the wing with North returning from a hip injury picked up with Wales during the autumn.

In the pack, Ken Owens starts at hooker with Tongan international Sione Timani alongside former Osprey Richard Kelly.

South African signing George Earle moves to the back row for the injured Aaron Shingler alongside Johnathan Edwards and Kieran Murphy who keep their starting places from last weekend.

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Sireli Naqelevuki, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Gonzalo Camacho, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Tom Johnson, 7 James Scaysbrook (capt), 6 Dean Mumm, 5 James Hanks, 4 Aly Muldowney, 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Simon Alcott, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Neil Clark, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Carl Rimmer, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Ben White, 21 Kevin Barrett, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Luke Arscott.

Scarlets 15 Liam Williams 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies (capt), 12 Scott Williams, 11 Gareth Maule, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Kieran Murphy, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 6 George Earle, 5 Richard Kelly, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Shaun Hopkins.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Johan Synman, 20 Tomás Vallejos, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Dan Newton, 23 Kristian Phillips.

Date: Saturday, December 15
Kick-off: 15:40
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Christophe Berdos (France), Eric Soulan (France)
Television match official: Eric Gonthier (France)

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