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Baxter ready for final stretch

Exeter boss Rob Baxter readily admits these are "exciting times" for the Chiefs as this season's Aviva Premiership play-off race builds towards a thrilling finish.

Baxter's men are among the clubs chasing four play-off spots, and they face a crucial clash against sixth-placed Wasps at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday.

Victory over Wasps would keep Exeter among the leading quartet approaching their final two league fixtures next month - Saracens away and Sale Sharks at home.

"Yes, these are exciting times for all of us, but we are also very aware that being excited doesn't win you too much," head coach Baxter said.

"It's nice to be excited and have big games, but what wins you things is getting the hard work done first and foremost on the field.

"That is normally a strength of ours, so we just have to reinforce that strength over these last few weeks."

Exeter toppled reigning Premiership champions and current league leaders Northampton two weeks ago, and Baxter added: "It was a big win for us.

"That said, our home form has been good all season - I think we've lost two at home in all competitions - so that gives you the foundations of a very good season.

"Now, we have to go away from home and collect more points if you want to be up there challenging, come the end of the season.

"As I've said to the guys, playing well in the Premiership doesn't count for much unless you train well, you play well and you deliver out on the field.

"We have not talked a huge amount about Wasps this week. It's more about us trying to work on areas of our game that we need to address. I think if we do that, it gives us every chance to take something from the game."

Exeter will be without full-back Phil Dollman for the trip to Coventry. Dollman is sidelined by a leg injury, so Byron McGuigan takes over from him. Two switches on the bench, meanwhile, see places for forwards Damian Welch and Luke Cowan-Dickie.

Wasps are boosted by the return to action of wing Christian Wade and number eight Nathan Hughes, while three other changes are all in the pack as Carlo Festuccia, Lorenzo Cittadini and Kearnan Myall make the starting line-up.

Assessing the Chiefs' challenge, Wasps rugby director Dai Young said: "Exeter have been a team that we have had trouble beating over the last few seasons, so we know exactly how tough it will be for us on Sunday.

"They have played some very good rugby this season, and their ability to run teams around has seen them move up into the top four with some well-deserved results.

"We are going into the game in decent form and with bags of confidence.

"We didn't play as well as we could against London Welsh (two weeks ago) but we got the result that we needed and we know where we need to improve this weekend.

"You have to win your home games if you want to be in the top six - it doesn't matter who you're up against.

"We face a side who deservedly sit fourth in the table, and we know that we will have to be near our best."


From Belfast Telegraph