London Irish v Exeter, Aviva Premiership, March 26
Chiefs out to wreck Irish party
March 25, 2011
Topsy Ojo has been in fine form so far this season © Getty Images
London Irish are all set to roll out the bunting for their St Patrick's Day game, with Exeter the visitors to the Madejski on Saturday, but Toby Booth's side need no distractions as they seek to re-establish their place in the play-offs mix.
They sit sixth and while they are only four points off Northampton in the final play-off spot, both the Saints and Bath have games in hand. The Exiles need to find some form, and fast, but they will be sternly tested this weekend, with the Chiefs keen to avenge a narrow 12-9 defeat at Sandy Park.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Delon Armitage makes his return from suspension and will no doubt be keen to put his troubles behind him and hit the headlines for all the right reasons.
London Irish - Team News: Armitage lines up at fullback in place of Tom Homer who moves to the wing. Daniel Bowden moves into the fly-half position from inside-centre, with Elvis Seveali'i coming into the centres to join fellow Samoan, Seilala Mapusua. David Paice is among the replacements having recovered from injury and prop Alex Corbisiero also returns from England duty but starts on the bench.
Exeter - Player to Watch: In-form fly-half Gareth Steenson steered the Chiefs to victory last time out and his cool temperament will be needed once again.
Exeter - Team News: Exeter make three changes with James Hanks returning at lock after recovering from injury, with Chad Slade dropping to the bench. Centre Jason Shoemark and winger Matt Jess are both recalled at the expense of Phil Dollman and Fijian powerhouse Nemani Nadolo.
Key Battle: With a bumper crowd expected at the Madejski Stadium as part of London Irish's St Patrick's Day celebrations the game could turn on how the visitors cope with the vociferous home support.
Trivia: An Exeter victory this weekend would be their first over London Irish in the history of the club.
Stats: London Irish fullback Delon Armitage has gained more metres this season than any other player, 738.
"It is good to be back playing at the Madejski Stadium and the St Patrick Party game is always a great spectacle that the squad looks forward to. We have key personnel returning for the fixture and have prepared well leading into the game, so we are all geared up to come away from the fixture with a positive result." - London Irish head coach Toby Booth
"It's possible that we could go above them but we've just got to focus in putting in a good performance, and if we do that we could get a result." Chiefs boss Rob Baxter tries not to get ahead of himself
Fantasy: London Irish winger Topsy Ojo has been in fine form all season, is he in your ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby Game team?
Prediction: The Chiefs will not fear this clash or the intense atmosphere and fresh from a break they can notch another big-name scalp.
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