Planet Rugby

Preview: Clermont v Exeter

11th January 2013 08:54

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SKY_MOBILE Jason Shoemark

Jason Shoemark: Starts at 12 for Exeter

Exeter boss Rob Baxter has made four changes to his starting XV for Saturday's Heineken Cup clash with Clermont Auvergne at Stade Marcel Michelin.

Amongst the backs, there are two changes with Kiwi centre Jason Shoemark coming in for Ian Whitten and Kevin Barrett replaces Haydn Thomas, who is sidelined with a head injury.

Up front, captain Tom Hayes replaces Dean Mumm at lock and James Scaysbrook takes over from Ben White at blindside flank.

The Chiefs will head into the game having not won in their last three Premiership fixtures, the last of which was Saturday's first loss in the league at Sandy Park to visiting Northampton Saints.

Despite the setback, Exeter boss Rob Baxter remains positive that his side is continuing to show signs of improvement and that it is only "small margins" which are ultimately costing his side.

Having suffered their first loss of the season on home soil to the Frenchmen back in October, the Chiefs know their hosts - who defeated reigning champions Leinster back to back last month - will again be formidable foes.

The Premiership club have again viewed closely their display in the 46-12 loss to Vern Cotter's side at Sandy Park - and Baxter is hopeful lessons have been learnt, especially after the two sides were locked at 12-all at the interval.

"I think what we learned from that game is that if you don't tackle them, they'll run in tries against you," he said.

"I think we learnt the hard way that night. That said, when we controlled possession in the game, we looked dangerous and caused them one or two problems.

"As I said, we've looked at the game again this week and for 50 minutes we were very much in the game.

"It was kind of ironic that the try that changed the game was pretty soft, as the ball shot out the side of one of our attacking rucks, they pounced on the loose ball and then set up for a guy to have a clear run in on the blind-side.

"That hurt us a little bit and we didn't really recover quickly enough from that.

"Also we ended up finishing the game with both of our nines injured and people not in recognised positions.

"A side like Clermont will expose that sort of things and they showed just how dangerous they could be.

"We will go over there this weekend knowing what we have to do, but there are lots of teams who have gone there knowing what to do, but still come unstuck.

"An element of our plan has to be to try and get in their faces, break them up as much as we can, whilst at the same time trying to force our game on them.

"That's the challenge for us, so we'll see how we go."

Meanwhile, Clermont have made just two changes to their run-on side that beat Montpellier in a Top 14 encounter last weekend.

Regan King replaces fellow New Zealander Benson Stanley at outside centre while Jamie Cudmore takes over from Julien Pierre at lock.

Clermont head into this match with an eight-point lead at the top of the Pool Five standings after their memorable 28-21 win over the defending champions, Leinster at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in their last group match.

The Top 14 outfit are one of only three teams - Harlequins and Toulon are the others - who are still unbeaten in the competition.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

ASM Clermont Auvergne: 15 Jean-Marcel Buttin, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Regan King, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Loic Jacquet, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Ludovic Radoslavjevic , 22 David Skrela, 23. Benson Stanley.

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

Date: Saturday, January 12
Venue: Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin
Kick-off: 19.00 local (18.00 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

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PosTeamPPts
1Saracens418
2Northampton416
3Bath415
4Exeter414
5Wasps411