EXETER Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter won’t let his young side get carried away after their impressive performance against Saracens in the opening round of the Gallagher Premiership season, writes Jack Lewis.
After such a thrilling showing against the defending champions, the Chiefs head to the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday (3pm) to face Harlequins and will be looking to right some of the wrongs of last season, and turn around a frustrating away record.
For Baxter and his coaches, the messages this week have been about consistency.
“You’ve got to decide that you move on, you don’t want to have too many highs and lows, you want to try and stay at a consistent level each week. We really want to avoid a situation where we perform well one week, poorly the next, and then have a reaction and perform well again. The thing with really good teams is they turn up, week on week," said Baxter.
It’s hard to ignore the level that the Chiefs reached in their impressive performance in Round One, to score so dominantly against a championship-winning team is a testament to a good pre-season and subsequent Premiership Cup campaign.
“For everything to click as it did, and for us to keep backing up the scores in the way that we did, is rare for any team, and it certainly hasn’t happened for us against Saracens before.
“We were on a really good emotional level, and that drove a good physical level; we looked sharp, quick, set-piece went well and we were communicating very well.”
A trip to London to face a Quins side which nearly took the spoils in a thrilling encounter with Gloucester in their opening fixture, will be another step-up for this developing Chiefs team, and Baxter was quick to note the challenge that awaits his young charges.
“They’ll be frustrated and disappointed by it (their narrow defeat away at Gloucester) but they’ll be pleased with how they went overall and they’ll have thought that performance wise they’re about where they need to be.
“It wasn’t vintage Quins by any amount but this’ll be their first home game and they’ll have been talking a lot about getting themselves ready for this, that’s what we’ve got to challenge ourselves to get to do as well.”
There is only one change to the Exeter side that took the victory last weekend, with Ben Hammersley taking the starting shirt from Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, who drops onto the bench.
Elsewhere, the partnerships continue to develop. The front row of Sio, Yeandle and Painter which has looked so dominant at scrum-time in the early exchanges this season, will aim to continue their good form against a Harlequins pack that has developed a fearsome reputation under the tutelage of Adam Jones.
Lewis Pearson and Rus Tuima pair up in the second row, and the combative back row of Ethan Roots, Jacques Vermeulen and Greg Fisilau will be looking to assert themselves over the Londoners.
After running in a hat-trick last week, Josh Hodge will be hoping to continue to cause chaos from the No.15 shirt, whilst the half-back pairing of Tom Cairns and Harvey Skinner keep their hands on the tiller after looking assured against the champions.
Quins have made one change following the 29-28 defeat to Gloucester, with Jarrod Evans named to make his first start for Quins at fly-half.
Harlequins: Nick David, Tyrone Green, Will Joseph, Luke Northmore, Louis Lynagh, Jarrod Evans, Will Porter, Fin Baxter, Sam Riley, Will Collier, Joe Launchbury, George Hammond, Jack Kenningham, Will Evans, Alex Dombrandt (capt). Replacements: Nathan Jibulu, Santiago Garcia Botta, Simon Kerrod, Dino Lamb, James Chisholm, Max Green, Will Edwards, Oscar Beard.
Exeter Chiefs: Josh Hodge, Ben Hammersley, Henry Slade, Tom Hendrickson, Tom Wyatt, Harvey Skinner, Tom Cairns, Scott Sio, Jack Yeandle (capt), Ehren Painter, Rus Tuima, Lewis Pearson, Ethan Roots, Jacques Vermeulen, Greg Fisilau. Replacements: Max Norey, Billy Keast, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Aidon Davis, Ross Vintcent, Niall Armstrong, Will Haydon-Wood, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso.