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Baxter buoyed by Chiefs' start

Exeter boss Rob Baxter says he has been encouraged by the Chiefs' start to the Aviva Premiership campaign as they prepare for a Kingsholm clash against Gloucester on Friday night.

Baxter and company will head up the M5 following a resounding victory over London Welsh and a narrow home defeat against Leicester, while last season's Gloucester trip produced an impressive 29-12 success.

"Our battle, as it was in a couple of games last year, is to make sure we are up there with the best sides," head coach Baxter said.

"However, what we have to do is force one or two more results over.

"That is an ongoing thing for us to learn and get better at, but last weekend we were one instance away from winning a game of rugby against a very tough side, so that's not the worse place to be.

"The important thing - and we said it straight after the game - was that we are not scratching our heads wondering if we will ever get the beating of a team like Leicester.

"If you look at the game closely, it was almost impossible to tell us apart at the weekend, and that's a nice place to be. What we have to do is keep striving to be better, which I know we can be."

Baxter has made two changes from the Tigers encounter, with prop Ben Moon replacing Carl Rimmer and lock Damian Welch taking over from Ryan Caldwell, while England wing Jack Nowell is on replacement bench duty.

Nowell scored two tries for Exeter's A team on Monday night in what was his first appearance since March, having recovered from shoulder and knee injuries.

"We always knew we would become stronger the more we got into the season," Baxter added.

"Thankfully, we've not picked up any other injuries, and all of a sudden we are getting a number of guys back to full fitness.

"Monday night's game showed a lot of boys returning to fitness, which in turn has created selection issues for us because we've played very well for the last two weeks.

"What it does give us, however, is a number of options and firepower off the bench.

"Over the next weeks, we will have a lot of players chomping at the bit to play some rugby, so that will not only give us quality in training, but also good performances out on the pitch."

Gloucester, fresh from beating Sale Sharks 34-27 five days ago, show three changes, including a Premiership debut for England Under-20 centre Henry Purdy.

Purdy replaces Henry Trinder, who suffered a shoulder injury during the Sale match, with other switches seeing Sila Puafisi in for tighthead prop John Afoa and lock Tom Palmer replacing James Hudson.


From Belfast Telegraph