Preview: Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs

Date published: February 20 2015

Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea has made two changes to his starting XV for Saturday's clash with Exeter Chiefs at the Stoop.

Dave Ward starts at hooker while Nick Easter, who was released from the England squad this week, captains the side at Number eight.

Among the replacements Matt Shields, who this week signed with the club until 2016, will look to make his first Premiership appearance for the club.

Meanwhile, England's decision to release Jack Nowell from their training base on Thursday means the young Cornishman will again get a chance to impress in Exeter's midfield alongside Sam Hill.

The Chiefs' sole change in personnel comes on the bench where Dave Lewis is preferred as back-up scrum-half to Haydn Thomas.

Tom Johnson, who is also named amongst the visiting replacements, will be making his 150th league appearance for the club should he enter the field at any stage.

With little change to his line-up, Baxter and his team of coaches have spent much of this week working on a detailed game plan to overcome Harlequins on their own patch.

Despite recent results, plus their current league position, Exeter boss Rob Baxter is well aware of the threat posed by Conor O'Shea's side and says the Chiefs will have to be at their best if they are to prosper.

"With Quins' being one of the teams in contention around us, obviously it becomes a very important game for the both of us,” said Baxter.

"If you look at the games we've had with them over the years, whether we win or lose, both sides want to play with ball in hand.

"They are obviously a very good side. They have been at the top-end of the competition for quite some years now and they have even won it recently.

"They will be looking for the win, not just because of their result last weekend [37-6 at Wasps], but also because they are not doing as well as they would like overall and they want to be at the business-end of the league come the end.”

Form: Harlequins only victory in their last five first team games was 47-19 in Castres in the European Champions Cup on 24 January. Quins only loss at the Twickenham Stoop in Aviva Premiership Rugby since their opening fixture of this season was 12-16 to Sale on 21 November. Exeter Chiefs four game losing run in Aviva Premiership rugby ended at home to Newcastle on Saturday with a 46-17 victory. The Chiefs have not won away from home in the competition since a trip to table-topping Northampton on 14 November. The two clubs have met on nine previous occasions in Premiership Rugby with the Londoners having a slight edge with five wins to four. Exeter have visited Twickenham Stoop on four previous occasion in all tournaments and have only won once, 27-16 on their most recent trip in March 2013.

The teams:

Harlequins: 15 Ugo Monye, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter (c) 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Jack Clifford, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Matt Shields, 19 Netani Talei, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague.

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Ian Whitten, 13 Jack Nowell, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Henry Slade, 9 Will Chudley,8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Ben White, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (c), 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Byron McGuigan.

Date: Saturday, February 21
Venue: The Stoop
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell, Roy Maybank
TMO: Rowan Kitt