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Preview: Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs

27th December 2013 12:19

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Jason Shoemark Exeter Chiefs

Starting: Jason Shoemark

Jason Shoemark starts at centre for Exeter Chiefs as they prepare for Saturday's Premiership clash with Harlequins at Twickenham Stadium.

The Chiefs have tweaked their line-up slightly with England international Tom Johnson returning to the back-row at the expense of Kai Horstmann and Shoemark also replacing Sam Hill. However, Horstmann is retained in the match-day 23 as he replaces Don Armand on the bench.

Scrum-half Haydn Thomas, meanwhile, is poised to make his 150th league appearance for the club, while Gareth Steenson is now just five points away from going second on Exeter's all-time list of points' scorers in league rugby. He is currently four points behind Andy Green's tally of 1,085, but is still some way short of Tony Yapp's record of 1,526.

"Over the years we've tended to finish the season strongly, but what we can't do is let teams get too far ahead of us because it will become too difficult in the long run," said Director of Rugby Rob Baxter.

"At the moment we're right in the battle, a point off where we'd like to be, which is the top four, but at the same time there are a couple of teams below us who are fighting to get above us.

"Ultimately the top half is where you have to stick because that is what gives you the big European games, which are very important to us, and if you are in the top six, you then have to be aiming for the top four because if you're not, you aren't showing the ambition you'd expect."

Meanwhile, there are just three changes to the Harlequins side that played Bath last week as centre Tom Casson, scrum half Danny Care and tighthead prop Will Collier return from injury to start.

Care, Mike Brown, Nick Evans, George Robson, Chris Robshaw and Nick Easter have participated in all Big Games to date and will all make their sixth appearance in the annual festive fixture.

Form: Harlequins 3-14 loss at Bath on Saturday ended a four game winning run in Aviva Premiership Rugby. 'Quins have won the last four outings they have played at Twickenham Stadium since Saracens beat them there on 27th December 2011. Exeter Chiefs 16-3 victory at home to Newcastle in round 10 ended a five game losing run in all tournaments. The Chiefs have not won on the road since an 18-16 victory at Sale in the Premiership on 1st November. Exeter have made four previous appearances at Twickenham, all in finals of various national cup competitions, but unfortunately have lost on each occasion. The two clubs have already met this season with the Chiefs winning 19-5 at Sandy Park in the Anglo-Welsh Cup in November. Exeter also won both Premiership encounters between the two clubs in the 2012/13 season.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Luke Wallace, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Nick Kennedy, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague.

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (c), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeadle, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Brett Sturgess, 18 Alex Brown, 19 James Hanks, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Fetu'u Vainikolo.

Date: Saturday 28th December
Venue: Twickenham Stadium
Kick-off: 1600 GMT
Referee: JP Doyle (Eng)
Assistant referees: Stuart Terheege, Roy Maybank (both Eng)
TMO: David Grashoff

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