Planet Rugby

Preview: Exeter v Northampton

04th January 2013 11:31

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Tom Johnson Exeter Chiefs

Tom Johnson: Returns for Exeter

Exeter boss Rob Baxter has been forced to tinker with his starting XV for Saturday's Premiership clash with Northampton at Sandy Park.

Into the number one jersey comes Ben Moon, for former Northampton prop Brett Sturgess - who broke his arm in last weekend's 12-12 draw with Bath - while alongside him at hooker Neil Clark also starts in place of Simon Alcott.

Other changes to the pack see Tom Johnson and Ben White recalled into the back-row, while James Hanks steps up to partner Dean Mumm in the Exeter engine room.

In the back-line, the solitary change sees Ian Whitten brought into the midfield in place of Jason Shoemark.

On the bench, there is a first Premiership involvement for hooker Jack Yeandle, Welsh international Craig Mitchell returns for the first time since rupturing his bicep in the away defeat at London Welsh back in September, and Fijian force Sireli Naqelevuki is also included.

Meanwhile, Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder has made three changes to his run-on side that lost 17-16 to Saracens last weekend.

All the changes are in the forwards. Calum Clark comes in for Tom Wood at blindside flank, Mark Sorenson replaces Samu Manoa at lock and Paul Doran Jones takes over from the injured Brian Mujati at tighthead prop.

Mallinder is under no illusions as to how tough the clash will be.

"Exeter like to play a good 15-man game," he said.

"We know how tough it is there and will have to be accurate in everything we do.

"We were a point away from winning away against the 2nd placed team in the league. That was positive, but we know that not many teams win in Exeter and we'll have to play well on Saturday.

"It's a very important game, but so is every game in the Aviva Premiership. They're in a similar position to us in the table and we'll have to play well to win.

"We've had some tough games which haven't gone our way. But we're still confident and know that what counts is where you finish at the end of the season."

Form: Exeter Chiefs are the best home side in the Aviva Premiership having tallied 24 league points from their six games so far. The Chiefs only loss at Sandy Park in any competition this season was to Clermont Auvergne in the European Cup on 20 October. Northampton have slipped to back to back Premiership defeats at the hands of the top two sides in the table - Harlequins and Saracens. The Saints' only victory in their last four away games in the Premiership was 27-16 at struggling Sale on 30 November. The Chiefs solo win over the Saints in eight previous meetings in all competitions was 30-9 at Sandy Park in the Premiership on 6 March 2011.

The teams:

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

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Dom Waldouck, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Paul Doran Jones, 2 Dylan Hartley (capt), 1 Soane Tonga''uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Luther Burrell.

Date: Saturday, January 5
Kick-off: 15:00
Venue: Sandy Park
Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Stuart Terheege, Ashley Rowden
Television match official: Geoff Warren
Timekeeper: Matthew Peters
Assessor: Paul Bridgman/Jerry Wallis

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Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
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Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26