Irish look to give Chiefs the chop
October 22, 2010
London Irish's Sailosi Tagicakibau has been in try-scoring form this season © Getty Images
London Irish will look to cement their place at the top of the Aviva Premiership table on Saturday when they tackle new boys Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park.
The Exiles have powered to the top of the Premiership table thanks to four impressive victories and the scalp of Irish giants Munster in their opening Heineken Cup clash further underlined the fact that Toby Booth's side are a force to be reckoned with this season. But defeat at the hands of the Ospreys last time out offered a little hope to their rivals - including Premiership newcomers Exeter.
The Chiefs have notched victories over Gloucester and Newcastle this season - both at home - and they will be relishing a return to Sandy Park having ended a three-game losing streak with an impressive 34-19 away victory over French side Bourgoin in their Amlin Challenge Cup clash last weekend.
Exeter - Player to Watch: New loan signing Peter Kimlin is set to make his Chiefs bow off the bench - will the Brumbies forward prove an astute acquisition by the Premiership new boys?
Exeter - Team News: Rob Baxter has opted to retain the XV that beat Bourgoin last weekend and has called on his side to produce a "special performance". Exeter have made changes to their bench with Australian international Kimlin on the replacements list alongside the returning Hoani Tui, Ryan Davis and Sireli Naqelevuki.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Fullback Delon Armitage is a man on a mission to reclaim his England No.15 shirt and will not be work-shy.
London Irish - Team News: Armitage is back in the starting line-up after sitting out a game under the EPS agreement. The other changes take place in the front row where the England Saxons pair of David Paice and Alex Corbisiero come in for James Buckland and Faan Rautenbach respectively.
Key Battle: The Exiles' in-form back three of Armitage, Topsy Ojo and Sailosi Tagicakibau have notched 10 tries between them this season and Exeter will have their hands full in defence.
Trivia: The two teams have met just twice before in competitive rugby, with Irish winning on both occasions: 27-25 at The Avenue in the Cheltenham & Gloucester Cup in February 1998, and 57-12 at the County Ground in the Tetley's Bitter Cup in November 2000.
Stats: The Chiefs have won both of their Premiership matches played at Sandy Park so far: 22-10 over Gloucester and 22-17 against Newcastle while the Exiles' only away win so far this season was 46-12 at Newcastle.
"We didn't work this hard to get in the Premiership to dread fixtures like this, we got into the Premiership to relish games like this." - Exeter coach Rob Baxter is in bullish mood.
"Exeter has made an impressive start to the season at Sandy Park but we go into the match fully prepared for the challenge ahead." - London Irish boss Toby Booth issues a warning to the Chiefs
Fantasy: Irish winger Topsy Ojo can boast four tries in the Premiership this season while team-mate Sailosi Tagicakibau has three to his name. About time they made the grade in your ESPN Premiership Rugby Fantasy Game team?
Prediction: Sandy Park has been a happy hunting ground for the Chiefs so far this season and that fact will not be lost on Irish who will have prepared accordingly. Expect the Exiles to cement top spot with another illustration of their attractive blend of muscle and flair.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"Gentlemen, if you want to see the World Cup going south yet again, you are going the right way about it," John Taylor looks at the state of European rugby
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring