Bath vs Exeter preview: Chiefs have only one way to go after defeat, says Rob Baxter

Chiefs visit Recreation Ground on Friday afternoon

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The Independent Online

The Exeter coach, Rob Baxter, believes his side face “probably the hardest fixture this season” when they visit their Premiership play-off rivals Bath.

Exeter had an eight-game unbeaten run halted by Sale last time, while second-placed Bath crushed Gloucester 39-16 away from home.

“Bath away is probably the hardest fixture this season,” said Baxter, whose team lie third. “But that’s a great challenge and probably not a bad time to have that on the back of a loss, because there is only one way to go. We have to go up there, fly into the game and see what happens.

“This is the best we’ve been at this stage of the season and we should be excited about that. I don’t want the players to feel down about Sale, I want them to feel excited about where we are in the Premiership.”

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Sam Burgess will start from the bench

Bath’s high-profile rugby league convert Sam Burgess will be on the bench after scoring his first union try when he started in the Bath United back row during an A League fixture against London Irish earlier this week.

Sale host Leicester with the Tigers bristling from a defeat to 14-man Northampton. “I don’t think we have beaten Leicester in any competition for about five years,” Sale’s former England wing Mark Cueto said. “It would be a great win for us. We know it will be tough. I don’t think anyone saw that Northampton result coming after Dylan Hartley got sent off, so they will be dangerous after that.”

Hartley misses the first of three Premiership games for which he is banned when Harlequins host Northampton today. Mike Haywood replaces Hartley in the front row.

On Boxing Day, the London Welsh captain Tom May and London Irish replacement Dan Leo were both sent off as Welsh went down to their 11th league defeat of the season, losing 24-9.

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