Chiefs eye back-to-back successes
September 23, 2010
Exeter's Tom Johnson scores against Newcastle © Getty Images
After three rounds of Aviva Premiership action few would have pegged Exeter to have accumulated twice as many points as Harlequins, but that is the situation as the teams prepare to go head-to-head at the Stoop on Saturday.
Quins are still searching for their first win of the season after last weekend's disappointing away loss to Sale, with their best result having come with a draw against Wasps in the opening round. Exeter have proved a major handful in their first season of Premiership rugby, beating Newcastle last weekend to secure their second victory of the campaign.
Their home form at Sandy Park will be the major contributing factor if they are to survive the drop but if Rob Baxter can mastermind a few carefully picked away victories then they could be in business.
Harlequins - Player to Watch: Prop Joe Marler has impressed thus far this season as a replacement so it will be fascinating to see how the 20-year-old fares in his first ever start in the top flight.
Harlequins - Team News: The aforementioned Marler replaces Ceri Jones at loose-head, while Nick Easter returns to his preferred position of No.8, thus facilitating the inclusion of Ollie Kohn in the second row. Danny Care is restored to the half-backs and there is a start for Gonzalo Camacho on the right wing.
Exeter - Player to Watch: Fly-half Gareth Steenson has been key to the Chiefs' surprisingly good start to the season and his boot will again prove integral to their hopes of victory.
Exeter - Team News: Exeter make a change to their starting line-up for the first time this season, with the absence of injured centre Phil Dollman (shoulder) resulting in Nic Sestaret moving into midfield and Matt Jess coming into the side on the right wing.
Key Battle: Exeter scrum-half Haydn Thomas has adapted well to the Aviva Premiership but this weekend he is going head-to-head with England's Danny Care. It should prove an interesting head-to-head.
Trivia: The last time the two teams met they were both inhabitants of National League One. The spoils were shared over the course of the 2005-06 season, each side winning their home game.
Stats: Harlequins' loss to Northampton two weeks ago ended a five match winning streak at the Stoop.
Odds: Reckon the Chiefs can maintain their incredible start to the season? Bet365 will give you odds of 4/1 on an away win.
"We know we face a massive challenge but we lost our unbeaten home record against Northampton and we now intend going on a similar unbeaten run, starting against the Chiefs." Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea
"The game for us is to go up there and play as well as we can. There will be a bit of pressure on them, whether that brings the best out of them or the worst, I guess only time will tell." - Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter
Fantasy: Exeter fly-half Steenson has been deadly with the boot so far this season, while Harlequins centre George Lowe hasn't been shy in finding the try-line. You could take a punt on either in ESPN's Premiership Rugby Fantasy Game.
Prediction: Harlequins have yet to register a win and the Chiefs are riding high - but the hosts should edge it.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September