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Rob Baxter set to freshen Exeter Chiefs for home clash

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 05, 2012

Rob Baxter. Picture by Phil Mingo-Pinnacle

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Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter expects to make changes ahead of this weekend's Aviva Premiership clash with champions Harlequins.

The Devon club have made an inconsistent start to the season, winning both their home games against Sale Sharks and Saracens but losing away to Northampton Saints, London Welsh and Leicester Tigers.

And with Quins to come this weekend before Heineken Cup clashes with Leinster and Clermont Auvergne, Baxter has hinted at rotating a number of his players.

He named Australian lock Dean Mumm and front-row forward Simon Alcott as two players likely to be considered for tomorrow's clash at Sandy Park.

He said: "There are players starting to stake a claim. Dean Mumm has now had a couple of A games under his belt and has performed very well and we've got some guys who have performed well off the bench.

"Simon Alcott has done very well and our backs are showing glimpses but we are having to do a little bit of rotation to keep them fresh as we've had a few injuries. We may make the odd tinker this weekend, it is more about getting everyone fit."

Baxter hopes any changes will lead to a better performance than last weekend's defeat at Welford Road to the Tigers.

He feels some of his Chiefs are trying a little too hard as they seek to make the transition from Premiership survivors to a side thought to be among the best.

He said: "You can do pretty well and play close to your potential and come up short – especially away at Welford Road against someone like Leicester. But we didn't play anywhere near our potential for various reasons. We were maybe over-desperate to do well and that led us to get distracted.

"A couple of early things went against us and we got a little bit distracted by that as well.

"When you are desperate to win, as we were in our first two seasons in the Premiership, things going against you don't really hurt you because you expect them to go against you and you get on with it.

"That's been the basis of us playing very in the past. Obviously now, there is a reality after a good season last year that our players are very ambitious and want to do very well.

"That almost means they have put themselves under more pressure and when a game goes against you, how do you react?

"Teams that have learned what it is like to be in the Premiership, year in and year out, know that games are tough and that you need to knuckle down and get the next thing right. We're still learning to deal with the little mistakes we make and not to get frustrated and make a second and third mistake.

"We did that too often at Leicester. We doubled up on mistakes and frustrating errors quite often in the game. You can't build pressure like that. We understand it, the players are not dumb but it is getting them to realise there is no point getting frustrated, you can get back in the game pretty quickly – even if you are 15 points down.

"I'm not overly frustrated with it, just disappointed we didn't play as well as we could. But I understand the reasons and know we are a team that can bounce back."

That will be easier said than done against a Harlequins side also hoping to recover following an 18-16 loss to Saracens.

Quins' style of play is much admired by Baxter and he sees similarities between the sides this weekend.

"It is a difficult one, we know they are a very good side," he said. "They have developed a bit of a swagger about themselves at the moment and they are confident. To be fair to them, they have developed all areas of their game. You don't look at them and say they play high-tempo rugby but haven't got a set piece.

"They are quite exciting across the board and even though they have developed quite a high-tempo style of offloading rugby, they back it up with a good set piece. That's what makes them dangerous.

"We like to think we are doing a little bit of that now as well, bit by bit. We like to play a fair bit of rugby but we have also shown we can play a kicking, defensive style of game, as we did against Saracens."

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