Chiefs facing Welford Road baptism of fire
September 9, 2010
Jeremy Staunton is back in the saddle for Leicester © Getty Images
Few would have expected reigning champions Leicester to be below Exeter in the Aviva Premiership table after week one, but that's the situation facing the Tigers as they plot the downfall of the Chiefs at Welford Road this weekend.
Richard Cockerill's men were on the wrong end of a 27-19 result against local rivals Northampton at Franklin's Gardens last weekend, losing England fly-half Toby Flood to injury in the process. Exeter, meanwhile, hit the ground running with a try to Mark Foster inside five minutes as they beat Gloucester 22-10 at Sandy Park.
Leicester - Player to Watch: Dan Cole will be looking to take advantage of his first start of the season with a rampaging performance against the Chiefs.
Leicester - Team News: Jeremy Staunton replaces the injured Toby Flood at fly-half while Dan Cole and Boris Stankovich return to the Tigers' front row and Tom Croft is on the bench.
Exeter - Player to Watch: Fly-half Gareth Steenson was the toast of Sandy Park last weekend and will need another assured display if the Chiefs are to upset Leicester.
Exeter - Team News: Exeter name an unchanged starting XV, while new signing James Honeybenon comes on to the bench but Garrick Cowley is ruled out through injury.
Key Battle: If Exeter pull off a successive shock win then they must steal their fair share of possession - making the second-row battle between new Leicester recruit Geroge Skivington and Exeter captain Tom Hayes crucial.
Trivia: Exeter have not beaten Leicester since a 6-0 victory at the old County Ground in April 1966.
Stats: Tigers have lost just one of their last 34 games in all competitions at Welford Road: 23-32 to Saracens on May 8 2010.
"We played some good rugby at times last weekend but there were too many penalties and too many turnovers. We scored three good tries and we were still in there fighting right at the end, despite conceding two tries so early on. But now we have to look to bounce back and get our first points on the board as quickly as possible." - Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill
"We've got a very tough game ahead of us but what do you want in this league, do you want hard games or easy games? You get into the Premiership to have hard games every week. People are saying we will look at every fixture like a cup final but we're not actually, we're looking at every game as a good league game." - Exeter head coach Rob Baxter
Fantasy: It's round two of ESPN Fantasy Rugby this weekend and there are several players with points to prove in this game. Leicester wing Scott Hamilton got his season off to a flyer with two tries against the Saints while Exeter fly-half Gareth Steenson looks set to bang over plenty of points in the Premiership after an assured start.
Prediction: Tigers, riled by their opening day defeat, to show no mercy to the Premiership newboys as the Chiefs' spirit proves insufficient to save them from defeat.
For UK users, ESPN is free-to-air this weekend. Between today and the early hours of Monday morning the channel is unscrambled, so you can watch live coverage of Leicester v Exeter on Saturday and Saracens v Sale on Sunday. It can be found on Sky channels 417 and 442 (HD) and Virgin media 529 and 530. Click here for more information.
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