Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks, Aviva Premiership, November 27
Exeter target another home win
November 26, 2010
Mark Foster is Exeter's top scorer this season but he has been dropped for this weekend's game © Getty Images
Exeter Chiefs will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Sale Sharks at Sandy Park as the newly-promoted outfit look to maintain their impressive start to the season on Saturday afternoon.
Exeter currently sit seventh in the table and have their home form to thank for their lofty position, with Rob Baxter's men having been beaten just once at Sandy Park, 12-9 by London Irish, in round six. In addition, they are coming into this game unbeaten in four games in all competitions.
The Sharks, meanwhile, have won just once in their last five Premiership outings and are now just two places off the bottom. However, they showed decent fighting spirit in losing to Northampton at Edgeley Park last weekend and will be hoping that a similarly sterling effort this weekend will yield a far more favourable outcome.
Exeter Chiefs - Player to Watch: Baxter has surprisingly dropped top try-scorer Mark Foster for the visit of the Sharks, explaining that the winger did not perform in last weekend's clash with Leeds. As a result, there will be a huge amount of pressure on Foster's replacement, Frenchman Nic Sestaret, to vindicate his coach's bold decision.
Exeter Chiefs - Team News: The omission of Foster aside, the only other change to the side that defeated Leeds last weekend sees centre Jason Shoemark handed a first Premiership start for Exeter at the expense of Bryan Rennie.
Sale Sharks - Player to Watch: Nick Macleod has been the most influential player in the Sale side for some time now so it is no surprise that the goal-kicking fullback has been entrusted with the captain's armband this weekend due to the injury-enforced absence of Neil Briggs.
Sale Sharks - Team News: The Sharks are able to include England centre Mathew Tait in their starting line-up for the first time this season after he made a successful return from injury in the closing stages of last weekend's clash with Northampton.
Key Battle: The midfield battle is intriguing and entirely unpredictable given that two of the four players involved, Tait and Shoemark, will be making their first starts of the season. In addition, Tait's partner, Iain Thornley, is a 19-year-old novice with just one previous Premiership outing under his belt. Both sides could prove very vulnerable in midfield.
Trivia: These two clubs have never met before in any tournament.
Stats: Sale have won three of their last four away games in all competitions.
"We're very aware we don't want to run before we can walk. We've got 18 points now and that's a nice stepping stone for us, but the reality is there's a hell of a lot of points still to play for." - Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter is not getting carried away after his side's encouraging start to the season
"Exeter are a solid side and their set-piece is good, their defence is good and what we've got to try and do is dominate their pack. If we do that we've got a chance of winning the game. If we don't achieve that they will beat us. It's as simple as that." - Sale Sharks head coach Mike Brewer says it like it is
Fantasy: Sale's Nick Macleod has scored more points (51) than any other outside back in ESPNscrum Fantasy Rugby so far this season.
Prediction: Exeter may be taking things step by step but they've proved tough to beat on their home track. Chiefs win.
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