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Baxter refusing to panic

Rob Baxter says there is no sense of panic in Exeter's ranks after the Chiefs suffered three successive defeats in the race for the Aviva Premiership play-offs.

Exeter head to London Irish on Sunday after being beaten by Sale Sharks, Bath and Gloucester either side of Christmas.

But, if they can halt that losing run at the Madejski Stadium, it would ensure they remain part of an increasingly-congested picture behind leading pair Northampton and Bath.

"Last week we got some decision-making wrong and some of our accuracy was off in the things we did, but large parts of our game were very good," head coach Baxter said, reflecting on a 26-25 loss to Gloucester.

"Therefore we are not going to change masses, throw the game-plan in the bin or look to redevelop things, because that is not the way to be successful.

"Each year we have been in the Premiership we've improved year on year, so it's more a case of reinforcing our qualities and reinforcing the attitude and the accuracy to win games, then ramming it home in training.

"It's not like we are standing here now and thinking things are falling down around our ears, because they are not.

"Huge parts of our game are still very much in place and the attitude of the players is great.

"What recent results have done, however, is put some pressure on ourselves to collect some points.

"Like anything, when you put pressure on, that can create an edgy performance and I would imagine there will be elements of Sunday that will see us being a bit edgy.

"However, that is no bad thing as those are the things you have to deal with if you want to be a top of the table side.

"We are not standing here in a panic.

"If you lose a game by a point like we did last week and we produce the opportunities like we did, I don't think there is anything drastically wrong.

"What we have to do is just sharpen up our accuracy and improve our decision-making at the right times."

Exeter's changes from the side edged out by Gloucester are all in the pack.

Props Carl Rimmer and Tomas Francis both gain call-ups, while Damian Welch returns to the second-row and Don Armand starts at openside flanker. England international Tom Johnson is set to begin his comeback from injury on the bench.

London Irish boss Brian Smith has made five changes to his line-up, including starts for prop Halani Aulika, openside flanker Blair Cowan and centre Eoin Griffin, with Andrew Fenby featuring at full-back.

Sunday's other game sees London Welsh, 15 points adrift at the Premiership basement, travelling to Newcastle.

Newcastle show five changes as Simon Hammersley, Sinoto Sinoti, Juan Pablo Socino, Rob Vickers and Ally Hogg all make the starting line-up, with new signing, former Bath prop Juan Pablo Orlandi, on the bench.

London Welsh captain Tom May returns from suspension to line up against his former club as one of three changes from the side beaten by Harlequins last time out.

May, who on Friday announced that he would retire from rugby at the end of this season, replaces an injured Nic Reynolds at outside centre. Elsewhere, Elliot Kear replaces wing Seb Stegmann and hooker Koree Britton takes over from Nathan Vella.


From Belfast Telegraph