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Rob Baxter hoping Exeter can kick-start Premiership campaign against Harlequins

Exeter boss Rob Baxter has billed Saturday's Aviva Premiership home clash against Harlequins as "a test of character" for the Chiefs.

Less than four months after contesting the Premiership final at Twickenham, Exeter find themselves bottom of the table with just one point from two games.

Unbeaten rivals Wasps and Saracens were their conquerors, which offers a sense of perspective, but Baxter knows it is important that Exeter now give their campaign a kick-start.

"I have said in the past that I've always thought the biggest test we would have as a club is if we lost a few fixtures early in the season," Baxter said.

"I've seen big clubs deal with it, and I remember it wasn't that long ago that we saw Leicester lose five out of six at the start of the season, and I think they ended up winning the Premiership that year.

"I think, for me, that's the real test of character and quality in a side, so, at this stage, I'm looking at it thinking it's a test of character.

"I am looking at the players who will really enjoy playing on Saturday and really enjoy going out there and throwing themselves around, expressing themselves and getting on with things.

"I am not really interested in the players who will be feeling sorry for themselves after two losses, but having said that, I have said to the players that they've shown a lot of good qualities over the last two weeks.

"I do think there is a bit of pressure on us, but I think the pressure is that it's an important game of Premiership rugby.

"I think that is what we need to focus on - let's just focus on this one weekend, not what has happened before or what might happen in the future."

Quins, beaten by Sale last time out, will arrive in Devon without centre Jamie Roberts and fly-half Nick Evans, but England full-back Mike Brown makes a first appearance of the season after recovering from illness.

Premiership champions Saracens top the table after collecting a maximum 10 points from two matches, and they host Northampton on Saturday minus injured England players Owen Farrell and George Kruis, while Saints are without England skipper Dylan Hartley.

Hartley went off at half-time during last Sunday's comfortable victory over Bristol, with Saints boss Jim Mallinder stating after the game that Hartley had been suffering from a sore back.

Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said: "Owen has picked up a hip problem in training this week, which is frustrating as he was close to playing against Exeter (last Sunday), but it's nothing too serious.

"In George Kruis' case, there is still a slight issue with a back strain that he picked up just before the Exeter game, and just like last week, we are not going to risk him.

"It is a long season ahead, and we have to manage our players with that in mind."

Bath, one point behind Saracens following an unbeaten start to the season under new rugby director Todd Blackadder, should make it three wins out of three against Recreation Ground visitors Worcester on Saturday.

The Warriors are without their former Bath flanker Alafoti Faosiliva, who is serving a one-week ban after he was sent off during a 23-23 draw with Gloucester seven days ago, while they have not beaten Bath for almost five years.

Sunday's Premiership action sees Wasps looking to preserve their 100 per cent record this term when Bristol arrive at the Ricoh Arena, with Leicester aiming to recover quickly from a 34-22 home defeat at Wasps' hands last time out when they visit Newcastle.


From Belfast Telegraph