Rob Baxter hoping Exeter keep momentum up with one eye on Premiership play-offs
Rob Baxter wants Exeter to keep momentum going as they target a victory over Sale Sharks that would move them into the Aviva Premiership play-off zone.
The Chiefs, beaten once in their last four league outings, will climb above Leicester and into fourth place if they beat Sale at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday.
Exeter head north on the back of scoring 89 points in seeing off Worcester and Newcastle, although Baxter is well aware that Sale are likely to provide a stern test.
"I've said for the last few weeks that we are starting to get up to the speed and intensity we need to be at to be competitive in the Premiership,," Baxter said.
"And I think a lot of what we did at the weekend against Worcester, and the week before at Newcastle, has highlighted that.
"Mentally and physically we've looked sharp and strong. The sharpness thing, in particular, has been the most pleasing thing, and it's an indicator that we are moving in the right direction and that we are challenging ourselves in the right way about what we want to achieve on the field.
"Over the years, we have not had the best record against Sale that we would like to have had.
"They are a very good side, with a very strong record at home. And to be fair, every time they have beaten us, they've deserved to win the game and get the points.
"We know it's going to be a great challenge for us, so we need to turn up in the right frame of mind and give ourselves the best opportunity to win the game."
Exeter show a number of changes after last Saturday's win against Worcester, with Baxter calling up the likes of props Carl Rimmer and Greg Holmes, while lock Geoff Parling also features and there is a first start since September for flanker Don Armand.
Behind the scrum, Sam Hill replaces Ian Whitten, who became a father for the first time this week, and full-back Lachie Turner is in for an injured Phil Dollman.
Sale boss Steve Diamond has made four changes from the side beaten by Wasps last weekend. Hooker Rob Webber starts for the first time since the season's opening weekend, replacing Neil Briggs, while skipper Josh Beaumont moves into the second-row alongside Bryan Evans and there are also opportunities for flanker Cameron Neild, centre Johnny Leota and wing Tom Arscott.
Sale have lost their last two Premiership games, with Diamond adding: "I am frustrated in that we have let ourselves down in certain areas. None of those areas are endeavour or effort.
"It's just a bit of game-understanding, management and skill.
"I know we've played the top two sides in the league (Saracens and Wasps), but the difference between some of our players and some of their players is the top two inches, and I don't think we have delivered and done ourselves justice in the last two weeks.
"The skill of this job isn't being down in the dumps after every loss. You have got to understand how you've lost and how you can rectify it. You have got to be pro-active and solution-based.
"Every time we've played Exeter, they have been in good form. They are a good side and do all the basics well. We just need to stop worrying about things on the periphery and do our own jobs, and stop giving easy opportunities to the opposition."