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Rob Baxter wary of Wasps threat as Exeter have chance to hit top spot

Exeter will go top of the Aviva Premiership if they beat Wasps on Saturday - but Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter is braced for a battle against opponents boasting "multiple threats."

Victory in Coventry would take Exeter above unbeaten leaders Saracens, who face Newcastle on Sunday, and underline the continued strides they continue to make under Baxter's astute leadership.

Wasps, though, are on a roll, having gone four successive Premiership and European games unbeaten, averaging 30 points in seeing off Gloucester, Leinster, Toulon and London Irish.

"We know they are a good side, and if we go there under-prepared or mentally off-key, then it will be very tough for us," Baxter said.

"They are very comfortable with what they are trying to do, and they are happy with the rugby they are playing.

"They have multiple threats all over the field, and if you make too many mistakes in the way you play, they are set up very well to capitalise.

"People talk a lot about their attacking qualities, but probably where they haven't got the credit they deserve is how good they have looked defensively.

"Given where we are in the league and with it being before back-to-back European Champions Cup games, it is a very important game.

"The group will be excited about it, and we are looking forward to going up there and challenging a club who are probably feeling pretty good about themselves right now."

Exeter will be without injured back-row pair Dave Ewers and Don Armand for the Ricoh Arena clash, while Wasps have lost flanker James Haskell due to a shoulder problem and lock Joe Launchbury is close to returning from injury, but not quite ready for this weekend.

Wasps rugby director Dai Young said: "Exeter are a real quality team, who have only lost one league game so far this season, so we are viewing this as a massive test for us.

"We've had a good month in Europe and a good away win last weekend, but that will mean nothing if we don't back it up at home on Saturday.

"We are determined to build consistency, and we know we have to win our home games if we want to get somewhere near our goals for this season."

Bath welcome back England centre Jonathan Joseph ahead of schedule for their Recreation Ground appointment with Northampton on Saturday.

Joseph suffered a chest injury during England's failed World Cup campaign and subsequently underwent surgery, with initial forecasts of a mid to late-January return, but he will start this weekend against a Saints side minus England forwards Tom Wood, Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes.

Harlequins, meanwhile, will go into their Twickenham Stoop appointment with bottom club Irish on Saturday buoyed by the news that club captain Danny Care has agreed a new long-term contract.

Scrum-half Care, who has won 53 England caps and made more than 180 appearances for Quins since joining them in 2006, remains an integral part of the club's armoury.

"In Danny, we see the Harlequins style stamped all over the way he approaches the game," Quins rugby director Conor O'Shea said.

"Captaincy is another natural progression for him, and I am looking forward to watching him kick on and become an even better player.

"In my opinion, with the skill-set he possesses, he should go on to win 100 caps for England and win more silverware for the club."

Third-placed Leicester, beaten just once this season, travel to Worcester on Saturday, with Warriors rugby director Dean Ryan relishing the test that Tigers will pose.

"All the big top four (teams) are coming in the next few weeks and over Christmas, so let's keep putting ourselves out there and let's keep seeing where we are at," Ryan said.

"Leicester are not as clinical at certain things as Saracens, but they are very physical at other areas.

"There is a lot of talk about changes to their game, but they don't lose what Leicester are. The reason why they have been so successful is built on pretty solid foundations of physicality in key areas, and I don't expect that to change."


From Belfast Telegraph