Chiefs side to face Harlequins
4th May 2018
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Ali Hepher has dismissed talk that Exeter Chiefs will be coasting their way through tomorrow's final round of the Aviva Premiership away to Harlequins at The Stoop (4pm). 

Having already secured top spot and a home semi-final following their exertions already this season, some observers have muttered that the defending champions may well take the opportunity to rest up and relax ahead of their last four encounter against either Newcastle Falcons or Wasps on May 19. 

That notion, however, was quickly dispelled by Head Coach Hepher at this week's media briefing, where he in fact said the Chiefs would be adopting a 'full-on' approach ahead of their final-day trip to the capital. 

"I think there's a lot riding on this weekend," said Hepher. "Harlequins will have the motivation that it's their last home game of the season, they've got some top quality players, and they'll be disappointed with recent results. We're expecting them to come flying at us from the very first minute. 

"Equally, there is a lot riding on it for us as well, both as a team and for the players as individuals. What they have to say to us as coaches with their level of performance is that they can't leave me out of the semi-final, so I think there is an incredible amount on it. 

"As far as developing stuff for the future and moving on, we don't really look at it like that. We have got a good, quality side that we have to try and beat, we've done our analysis based on the opposition, and we will try and perform to the best of our ability against them." 

Whereas the Chiefs come into the game having won their last seven matches in all competition, Quins on the other hand have struggled to pick up results in recent weeks. Four successive losses, which includes last weekend's 44-13 reverse at Worcester Warriors, has last them searching for solutions ahead of what will be their final outing of the season. 

Hepher admitted he was somewhat surprised at how the Londoners have fared this season, but is well aware of the threat they pose - particularly on home soil - and with it being the final game in charge for outgoing Director of Rugby, John Kingston. 

"Because they have a lot of top quality players, it is a little bit surprising," added Hepher. "Things are happening in their camp that will be disappointing from their perspective, but we have to focus on ourselves and make sure we are hitting our straps, make sure we are performing as individuals, and then the collective team comes together as a result of that." 

Over the past month or so the Chiefs have shown they are beginning to crank up the gears, but the club's coaching staff believe there is still more to come from Devon's finest over the coming weeks as they look to plot their course for another safe passage into a Twickenham final. 

A bonus point victory at The Stoop tomorrow will see the Chiefs move past the 84-point mark they and Wasps reached last term, but despite their imperious form, the Chiefs Director of Rugby insists there is still more to come from his players. 

"We haven't hit top gear yet," said Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter this week. "I wouldn't say Sale on Saturday was a top-gear performance, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. There are a few reasons for that, but the fact they we are ticking along nicely is a good thing. 

"We are training well, getting game minutes for everyone, we're not too heavily hit by injuries and we are moving forward. I don't want our best performance of the season to be against Sale or Harlequins. I want them to be good performances, but I want them to be stepping stones or two even better performances. 

"Harlequins are a decent side and people will look at their results and the turmoil they are in and think this a game that they will just topple over," added Baxter. "However, we know that will not be the case - it just never is. I don't care what anyone says, to win an away match of Premiership Rugby is tough, it always is.

 "It is a pretty simple equation for me - I am expecting maximum effort from the guys to put all the nuts and bolts together." 

Like Baxter, Hepher has spent much of this week instilling into the Chiefs squad the importance of staying level headed and maintaining the standards which have served the Devonians so well for the course of the campaign. 

"The important thing is that the players are aware that nobody's place in the side is secure," added Hepher. "They are young guys, they are human, and sometimes they can get carried away and take things for granted. As coaches we have to make sure they keep their feet on the floor and make sure they are performing to the best of their ability now, because that is the best preparation for a semi-final. 

"It's not to be to just coast through this game and then hope we turn it on in the semi-final. We have got to be accelerating.  We've certainly accelerated things in training this week that was better than last week, and we've got to keep that going through these next few weeks. As I said earlier, there is plenty to play for and players know they need to perform on Saturday." 

As has been the case in recent weeks, the Chiefs are rotating their playing options to ensure their squad remains in fine fettle and that any niggles don't become anything more than that.  With that in mind, changes to the line-up from a week ago see Ben Moon, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill and Thomas Waldrom come into the pack, while behind Olly Woodburn returns on the wing, Jack Nowell shunts into the centre, while Phil Dollman is also back to start at full-back. 

Supporters are reminded that tomorrow's game is a complete sell-out and to allow additional travel time as the annual Army versus Navy game will be taking place across the road at Twickenham Stadium. 


15 Phil Dollman

14 Santiago Cordero

13 Jack Nowell

12 Sam Hill

11 Olly Woodburn

10 Joe Simmonds

9 Nic White

1 Ben Moon

2 Luke Cowan-Dickie

3 Tomas Francis

4 Mitch Lees

5 Jonny Hill

6 Dave Ewers

7 Don Armand (capt)

8 Thomas Waldrom


16 Jack Yeandle

17 Alec Hepburn

18 Greg Holmes

19 Sam Skinner

20 Dave Dennis

21 Stu Townsend

22 Gareth Steenson

23 Tom Hendrickson


About the Author

Mark S

Member since: 5th January 2016

Hi, I am Mark Stevens, Media and Communications Manager for the Exeter Chiefs

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