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Exeter forwards coach Rob Hunter keen to avenge London Irish defeat

Published 20/02/2016

Shane Geraghty, whose late drop-goal condemned Exeter to defeat in last season's Aviva Premiership clash at the Madejski Stadium
Shane Geraghty, whose late drop-goal condemned Exeter to defeat in last season's Aviva Premiership clash at the Madejski Stadium

Exeter will be spurred by the memory of a "very lacklustre" performance when they tackle Aviva Premiership strugglers London Irish on Sunday.

Shane Geraghty's late drop-goal condemned Exeter to a 28-26 defeat when the clubs last met in Reading 13 months ago, and Chiefs forwards coach Rob Hunter has not forgotten it.

"If you look at last season's game up there, it was one we felt we really under-performed in," Hunter said.

"We lost there last year, and that, I guess, could have been the difference why we didn't get into the top four come the end.

"Yes, we lost other games away as well last year, games we felt we should have won, but that one up there was one that really sticks in the memory.

"The focus this week has been very much about ourselves and making sure we perform to our own high standards.

"The fact it's London Irish merely adds a bit of spice because that, I felt, was one of our worse performances last year. We were very lacklustre, and when we had the chance to win it, we didn't, and that has burnt a bit with us for quite a while."

Exeter have lost their last two Premiership games, but they remain firmly in the title play-off picture and will arrive at the Madejski Stadium 29 points and 10 league places above their opponents.

While Irish currently prop up the table, Hunter expects a much tougher proposition from the Exiles compared with their previous encounter this season, when Exeter won 38-11 at Sandy Park last October.

"If you look at them now, they are much improved and way better organised," Hunter added.

"The fact their league position is what it is would imply things aren't going too well for them, but every game - cliched as it is - is super tough at this level.

"This is a very physical, very tough league, and if you don't rock up in the right way each week, you will get beaten.

"The results around the league last weekend showed that, and with Irish getting a bit of a battering from Northampton, we have to be careful we don't get on the back end of them coming off a big loss. Regardless of league position, we need the points as much as they do."

Despite seeing his team suffer defeat against Sale Sharks seven days ago, Exeter head coach Rob Baxter has named an unchanged side for the trip to Reading. His only switches are on the bench, where Italy centre Michele Campagnaro and Wales prop Tomas Francis both feature.

Irish, meanwhile, show four changes from the side comprehensively beaten by Northampton last time out, with fly-half prospect Theo Brophy Clews replacing Geraghty, and there are also starts for prop Tom Smallbone, lock Elliott Stooke and flanker Ofisa Treviranus.

Newcastle host Northampton in Sunday's other Premiership game, with Falcons rugby director Dean Richards making a solitary change following an impressive victory over Leicester last time out as Mark Wilson returns to the back-row and is replaced at lock by Mouritz Botha.

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder has named an unchanged matchday 23 for the trip to Kingston Park as Saints look to stay in touch with the play-off places. England internationals Ben Foden, Luther Burrell, Kieran Brookes and Tom Wood are among the starters, while a powerful bench features the likes of Victor Matfield, Teimana Harrison and George Pisi.

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