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Rob Baxter to give squad players chance to shine after Mitchell's injury woe

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 21, 2012

  • Rob Baxter

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Rob Baxter will give his back-up props a chance to impress rather than dip into the transfer market, after Craig Mitchell was ruled out for three months.

The Wales international ruptured a bicep tendon in the 25-24 defeat against London Welsh last weekend. He had an operation to fix it on Monday, but is set to be out of action for three months.

He joins fellow tighthead Hoani Tui on the sidelines, with the former New Zealand Maori player recovering from a hamstring strain.

After Carl Rimmer made his Premiership debut off the bench at the Kassam Stadium, and the likes of Chris Budgen also in contention for the number three jersey, Baxter will stick with his squad ahead of this Sunday's Aviva Premiership home game against Saracens.

"At this stage our thoughts are that Carl Rimmer did pretty well when he went on," said Baxter. "He had a good couple of carries, he had some good scrums – they weren't all great but he had some good ones as well – and considering he hasn't had a lot of time with us at tighthead I thought he did really well.

"He's got an opportunity and Budge is around and fit at the minute and has played a lot of Premiership rugby at tighthead, so we have got options.

"Lloyd Fairbrother is going very well down at Plymouth and Alex Brown is back in full training after the knee injury he picked up in the Connacht game. My immediate thought is not to be panicking and thinking we've got to sign more players.

"You put a squad together and you see some qualities in these players, it might just be that some of these guys get an opportunity slightly earlier than you would have thought."

Mitchell was not the only player to be forced off with a knock during the second half of Sunday's defeat, Exeter's second of the campaign.

England flanker Tom Johnson suffered a rib injury but should be in contention to feature against Saracens. Lock Aly Muldowney picked up a similar knock at Northampton but made the bench last weekend. Baxter said: "Tom's got a rib injury that may not be too long-term. Rib cartilage is more about pain management rather than whether you are actually going to be fit to run around on a rugby field."

One player who will certainly be keen to feature is winger Matt Jess, who is set to make his 100th league and cup appearance for Exeter.

Having signed a two-year contract extension this week, and scored four tries in the first three matches this term, things are certainly going well for the 28-year-old.

That was not the case for the team as a whole last weekend as the Exiles celebrated their first win in the top flight. Baxter said the match against Saracens offered a chance for them to put that right in front of their own supporters.

"Saracens are a good side, we've had some really good games against them in the past, and it will be a really tough challenge," he said.

"They offer a really different challenge to a lot of teams with the pressure they put you under with their defence.

"It's a great challenge for us, but every week in the Premiership is a challenge and perhaps we didn't quite get it right last week. It's a chance for us to get big parts of our game right. Let's get after the game and see what we can get out of it.

"It's about addressing the little issues we have from the London Welsh game, cranking up our level of performance, getting some real clarity about the way we want to play, and having some confidence to stick to what we want to do."

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