Baxter braced for Quins to embark on road to recovery


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The Independent Online

Rob Baxter, the Exeter coach, has no doubt the Chiefs will require a "switched-on" defensive display when Premiership champions Harlequins arrive at Sandy Park today.

Quins are bristling from their first league defeat of the season – an 18-16 home loss against Saracens last weekend that saw Northampton replace them as Premiership leaders.

The Londoners will target an immediate response to that setback, and Baxter said: "We know they are a very good side who have developed a swagger about themselves and who are confident.

"They are certainly exciting across the board and they play high-tempo rugby, which is backed up with a good set-piece, so that is what makes them dangerous. To compete against them you have to be on top of your game right across the pitch, and that means defensively you've got to be very sound and switched on.

"Like a lot of teams, we know what is coming from them, but that is kind of what their strength is at the minute. It doesn't really matter that you know what is coming, it's how you deal with it."

Exeter were soundly beaten by Leicester six days ago, but Baxter believes his players can quickly put that 30-8 loss behind them. "I know we are a team that can bounce back and play a lot better," he added. "Again, it's part of our overall development, and right now we are in a transitional phase as a team. We no longer look at being a side who are desperate to avoid relegation. But by wanting to be more ambitious you will take some hits, and last Saturday we took a hit."

Bath begin life after Olly Barkley when they visit west country rivals Gloucester.

Barkley bowed out with a 16-point haul in a comfortable victory over Sale Sharks last weekend before joining French club Racing Métro, and New Zealand World Cup winner Stephen Donald takes the No 10 shirt at Kingsholm.

"Olly Barkley has kicked a lot of points for Bath this season, but they've still got quality in that position with a World Cup winner in Stephen Donald," the Gloucester head coach, Nigel Davies, said.

"I don't think it will matter much. Bath are a pretty structured team. I think we are very similar to Bath. We are both teams in transition with new coaching groups, new philosophies and new-look teams."

Gloucester have suffered a solitary defeat from five starts this term, and Davies added: "It is important to keep the momentum going. This group of players are playing with lots of confidence at the moment, with lots of belief. We are ready for this fixture – it's a huge fixture."

Northampton will be strong favourites to preserve their 100 per cent record this term when they visit struggling London Irish today while Wasps are boosted by the return from injury of skipper Hugo Southwell for tomorrow's Adams Park appointment with Worcester.

Worcester, though, could prove tough opponents after an encouraging start to in which they have taken 10 points from five games.

"We need to keep our feet on the ground," the Warriors head coach, Richard Hill, said.

"We've been working exceptionally hard and have prepared meticulously to attack and defend against Wasps. The players are hungry and ready to take Wasps on."