Chiefs Team To Face London Welsh
5th September 2014
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First up for Rob Baxter's side is Sunday's trip to newly-promoted London Welsh, a side the Devon club know all too well following numerous encounters with the Exiles in both the Premiership and RFU Championship.

It's a clash which, according to Baxter, should provide the ideal starting point for his Class of 2014/15 as they prepare for a new term of action in English rugby's top flight.

The Chiefs head into Sunday's fixture at the Kassam Stadium (2pm) not only buoyed by the arrival of eight new signings this summer, but also with an unblemished pre-season record having claimed the scalps of Cardiff Blues, Ulster and Worcester Warriors in recent weeks.

And whilst those friendly fixtures have helped to ensure the Chiefs are pretty much up to speed ahead of the new campaign, Baxter is well aware that intensity levels and on-field physicality will rise to a whole new level this weekend.

"It's a bit of a phoney war right now," said Baxter. "We've had a good pre-season, we've gone well in our games, but we know the Premiership is another notch up in intensity. We've trained hard this week, but we're not looking around right now thinking we need to address anything, because we don't, what we have to make sure of is come Sunday we turn up in the right frame of mind and ready for the battle ahead."

Having seen off Bristol in May to regain their place at English rugby's top table, the Exiles have themselves enjoyed a busy summer recruiting some 25 new players, including the likes of seasoned internationals Ollie Barkley and Piri Weepu.

The Chiefs know from past experience the threat Welsh pose - particularly at home - as it was Baxter's side who conceded a first-ever loss to the Exiles on their previous stint in the Premiership two years ago.

A last-gasp try from Ed Jackson gave Welsh a 25-24 win at the Kassam that day, a result which still lingers deep in the mind-set of Baxter and several of his current playing squad.

Baxter added: "They are a good side and any side that can come through the end of season play-offs in the Championship is a useful side with good qualities. We have seen it before - including ourselves - so that in itself demands respect. At the same time, they've added some thickness to their squad, recruited some good players and they have had a decent pre-season hit out themselves.

"Right now nobody knows where they stand, so for me it's not about predicting too much about them, but more focusing on ourselves and making sure we do the right things.

"I think we have enough players here in the squad to remember the last result up there - and it's important to appreciate what we did wrong and what we did right on that day. Early on we did some good things, but then we probably got a little bit carried away with ourselves. We let the game break up a bit, almost Sevens like, and you have to say we didn't show the respect to the game that we should have done.

"London Welsh came back at us, they established a bit of hold on the game, and then with a minute to go they scored the winning points. Yes there were things we learnt from that day, some good and some bad, but I think we've moved on a lot since then and hopefully we'll show that on Sunday."

With skipper Dean Mumm heading up a list of notable absentees that include the likes of Jack Nowell, Damian Welch, Fetu'u Vainikolo, Phil Dollman and Dave Lewis, Baxter's opening squad of the season has a somewhat new-look to it with four of his eight newcomers being handed a start in the pack.

Prop Tomas Francis packs down in the front-row, while former Welsh player Mitch Lees is joined in the second row alongside Ryan Caldwell, and England international Thomas Waldrom is at No.8. Fellow newcomer Moray Low offers able back-up from the bench, which also includes Jack Arnott for the first time in the Premiership.

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