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  Exeter Chiefs all set for trip to Wasps  

ROB Baxter has challenged his Exeter Chiefs side to “not draw breath” after re-igniting their Gallagher Premiership campaign in recent weeks.

Having opened the season with back-to-back defeats against Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints, Devon’s finest have hit the right note in the past fortnight, securing impressive wins over Sale Sharks and Worcester Warriors.

Now, the Chiefs’ Director of Rugby is craving more of the same from his players, who tomorrow make the trip to Wasps in Round Five of the competition (3pm).

It’s a fixture which often serves up a feast of action, as well as points, and Baxter is expecting no different from his side’s latest trek to Coventry.

“Now is not the time for us to draw breath,” he said. “I say this a lot, but the hardest thing is sport is to have an amount of success and then not just take your foot off the pedal.

“We have kind of got ourselves back on track after a couple of losses, but that is all we are. We’re back on track, but we know we need to do a lot more, not just this weekend, but moving forward.

“Going to Wasps isn’t easy and we’ve not had the best of records up there in recent times. There are reasons for that, we’ve had a couple of changed-up sides, but like ourselves they will be looking to progress. We’ve looked at them this week, they look in good form, whereas we are more okay in terms of our form.”

The Chiefs will travel, however, with a powerful attacking arsenal at their disposal. The return of their British & Irish Lions contingent in the past fortnight has certainly made a difference, as has the return of back-row duo Richard Capstick and Dave Ewers.

Add into the mix the return tomorrow of England and British Lions winger Jack Nowell and it’s easy to see why Baxter is bullish of his side’s chances.

“It doesn’t take a genius to see the impact of guys like Dave Ewers, Sam Simmonds, Jonny Hill, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Stuart Hogg are going to have,” added Baxter. “Jack Nowell is fit again for this weekend, so we’re in a good place.

“What those guys bring is not just about them playing, but it’s how they talk, how they manage themselves during the week. They are all playing their part and that’s a fantastic position to be in.

“Equally, others are making their mark as well. Will Witty has probably been our most improved player over this first week. Josh Isoefa-Scott is coming along nicely and then we’ve got some of the young guns, guys like Jack Innard, Tom Hendrickson and Richard Capstick, who you can see are thriving on the game time they are getting.

“For me, there are a huge amount of positives and it’s that latter group, not the international group, who I believe are going to be the ones that drive us onto that next level when everyone is fit and available for selection.”

Buoyed by their bonus point victory over the Warriors last time out, Baxter sticks with a largely unchanged starting line-up. In the pack, Aussie lock Ryan McCauley comes in for his first-ever Premiership start, while behind the scrum, Nowell takes over from Tom O’Flaherty on the wing.

On the bench, Jack Yeandle, Sam Nixon and Don Armand are all added to last weekend’s match-day 23.

Reflecting on his side’s showing last time out, Baxter said: “The first quarter was a funny one, wasn’t it?

“Neither team had scored, but what I did see was us playing with real pace and intensity. We made the odd mistake, but I liked what I saw because I knew it would challenge Worcester later in the game. Quite often I don’t worry if we’re not scoring, I worry more about how we are playing.

“Scoring seven points without making the opposition work doesn’t do you a lot. Most teams are capable of scoring, you saw that with Harlequins last week when they were 21 points down and then went on to score a lot of unanswered points.

“As I tell the players often, it’s not the scoreboard that hurts the opposition early in the game, it’s more about how hard you are willing to work and how hard you are going to make the opposition work. Again Worcester, I thought we were exceptional at that, and once that dam broke, we were able to capitalise on it.”

15 Stuart Hogg
14 Jack Nowell
13 Henry Slade (capt)
12 Tom Hendrickson
11 Facundo Cordero
10 Harvey Skinner
9 Jack Maunder

1 Alec Hepburn
2 Luke Cowan-Dickie
3 Harry Williams
4 Ryan McCauley
5 Jonny Hill
6 Dave Ewers
7 Richard Capstick
8 Sam Simmonds

16 Jack Yeandle
17 Billy Keast
18 Sam Nixon
19 Will Witty
20 Don Armand
21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
22 Joe Simmonds
23 Tom O’Flaherty

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