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Baxter braced for Sale test

Rob Baxter has braced his Exeter team to face "a very different animal" when they tackle Aviva Premiership rivals Sale Sharks on Friday night.

This time last year, Sale were reeling from a dismal start to the league campaign, but they currently hold a solid mid-table position following victories over Gloucester, Wasps and Bath.

They are also unbeaten in the Amlin Challenge Cup after beating Biarritz and Worcester, and Baxter expects a stern test at the AJ Bell Stadium.

"We are aware it is a very tough fixture for us. Sale are a very different animal this year," Chiefs head coach Baxter said.

"They look a lot more solid, and I say that as a great compliment. They look happy and confident with what they are doing, and we are expecting a very competitive game.

"I think whenever you go away to Sale on a Friday night you know you have to show up and put in a good performance, and that is what we have to aim to do."

Sale beat Exeter at home last term after they wiped out an eight-point interval deficit, and Baxter added: "It is on our minds a little bit because there are a lot of things that we got wrong up there.

"In the first-half against them last year we came out of the blocks really well and probably should have put the game to bed by half-time. That said, fair play to Sale, they stayed in there and kept fighting and turned the momentum in the second-half," Baxter added.

"Looking back, we learned a lot from that fixture because we moved forward and then went on a really good run because I think we felt a little bit disappointed by the result."

Exeter are currently in the Premiership play-off zone, which underlines how consistent they have been this term.

"We are in a good place right now, but we have to keep pushing forward," Baxter said.

"I think what we do here very well is not get carried away with things going well or not so well. We understand what we are and where we want to go, and we don't rest on our laurels.

"People talk about cultures and work ethics, but the first thing that goes when you relax is your work ethic. I think the key for us is to never take anything for granted, and that's what we do.

"On a week-by-week basis, we don't take things for granted and we talk about the graft needed in training and in a game. As long as that's there, we will be very competitive.

"I think what we are starting to add now is a bit of precision and accuracy to what we do on a more regular basis."

Worcester, eight points adrift at the Premiership basement after just six games, will hope to end their losing run against Sixways visitors Bath on Friday night.

But the visitors will start as firm favourites following an impressive start to the campaign. They will move into second spot if they defeat the Warriors, whose last league win came in early March.

"We are in a situation where we've got to try and find the best pathway out, and not jump up and down and say it's one thing or the other," Warriors rugby director Dean Ryan said.

"Professional rugby is about having high standards and systems that underpin a philosophy for a long period of time.

"We've got to build our game and intensity around the things we're capable of doing, and then become competitive against our opponents.

"It's my job to ensure the players keep working hard. We are not where we would like to be, but one win could change that."

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